Friday, September 19, 2014. Last Update: Fri 2:45 PM EST

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Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

When Opposites Detract

Is “sanction” a contradictanym?

A country ignores the wishes of the United Nations and continues its human rights abuses. Its behavior is “sanctioned.” Meanwhile,... More

Our Historical Past

The presidential election was both “historical” and “historic”

Last week’s election was “historical.” It was also “historic.” As my predecessor Evan Jenkins explained here in 2004, “By hoary... More

Damning With Excessive Praise

“Fulsome” doesn’t mean what you think it means

Language is communication, but it works only if the communicators understand one other. If you think a word means one... More

When A Plus Is A Minus

The real meaning of the word “nonplussed”

Last week, some people who read here that “bemused” doesn’t mean “wryly amused” may have been “nonplussed.” “Nonplussed” is another... More

Bemusement Park

It’s not amusing when writers misuse “bemused”

Here’s the lede on one article about the final presidential candidates’ debate: “Calmly swatting away John McCain’s aggression in their... More

Rescuing the Bailout

Which word best describes the government’s response to the financial crisis?

Politics, especially in the few weeks before an election, is full of semantics, but this year seems particularly fraught. Take... More

Mass Appeal

Or, rather, “hoi polloi” appeal

In most of her speeches, and in her debate last week with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin seems to be speaking... More

Getting To The Top

A proper use for “crescendo”

“Daring project reaches a crescendo,” read a headline in the Albany Times-Union the other day. It struck a chord. Anyone... More

Where Have All The Commas Gone?

The joys of the parenthetical comma

(Voice of police dispatcher): “Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the lookout for escaped commas. Last seen after... More

Not Without Regard

Is “irregardless” a word?

One problem with having so many dictionaries available is that they often don’t agree—on definitions, spellings or even whether something... More

Judgment Day

Are the Gitmo trials more of a star chamber or a kangaroo court?

The military trials planned for prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have been referred to as occurring in “a star chamber”... More

But It’s Alright

Alright may not be all wrong

It’s never all right to use “alright,” right? Let’s discuss, already. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English says it... More

Comma Suture

A little punctuation mark can hold things together, or rend them asunder

The selection of Senator Joe Biden to be Barack Obama’s running mate has revived the debate over a statement Biden... More

It’s Your Cull

Two different meanings for one little word

If you’re a poker player, when you “cull” the cards you have selected a bunch of good cards and arranged... More

When Loosing Is Winning

“Loosing” vs. “losing”

A lot of people seem to be loosing their minds lately, or at least their grips on their dictionaries. “Loosing... More

Richter Mortis

The decline and fall of the Richter scale

The recent earthquake in Southern California unearthed a reason to celebrate. Not because it wasn't the Big One, or even... More

Check Your Herring

“Mondegreen”? Did I hear you right?

Many language lovers’ favorite time is when a dictionary is updated, because they can see what new words make the... More

Absent Without Leave

Is it OK to use “absent” as a preposition?

John Cochran, a writer-editor for the federal government, writes: Here’s a construction I don’t like: ‘Absent some better way …... More

And Another Think

If you think you've heard all of the linguistic twists and turns, you've got another thing coming. Well, actually you've... More

Stop using ‘Brooklyn’ to mean hipster neighborhoods - Elite-oriented outlets typically only cover the borough’s most affluent, Manhattan-adjacent neighborhoods

The Reporters Committee is about to start suing people to help journalists - Katie Townsend joins the organization as its first litigation director

How a Nebraska newspaper kicked off a major prison sentencing scandal - The Omaha World-Herald found that hundreds of inmates were being released early

On media freedom, United Nations plays by its own rules - Months of international crises raises the stakes for reporting on the UN, but investigative journalists remain without a right to information

Keep calm and write a headline worth reading - Ease up on the exaggerations because someday you may need those explosive adjectives when a truly big story lands


Adviser of high school paper that refused to use ‘Redskins’ suspended (Student Press Law Center)

“Amid a months-long battle with administrators for editorial control … the Playwickian’s faculty adviser was suspended for two days this week”

Apple’s ‘warrant canary’ disappears (GigaOm)

Apple included language in its first Transparency Report to say that it had not been subject to a Section 215 Patriot Act request. That language is now gone.

Trend Piece (New Yorker)

Buzzword, buzzword, buzzword. Isn’t the buzzword on your mind now? Perhaps it is on other people’s minds? Read on or you’ll be clueless, dated, and without any friends in the world. Buzzword again!

This Is How Joanna Coles Changed Cosmo (Refinery29)

The British reporter-turned-editor has made good on her promises to bring politics to the magazine, win some very big-deal journalism awards, and secure the most interesting exclusive interviews

Bloggingheads

Greg Marx discusses democracy and news with Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute

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