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Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Cultured Plurals

Plurals, singulars, and the de-Latinization of English

When baseball season starts in just a few short weeks, the New York Yankees will have a new “stadium.” The... More

A Frayed Knot of Words

The difference between “homonym” and “homophone”

Last week’s posting discussed sound-alike words that are often mistaken for one another, despite their different meanings. That brought a... More

Pedal Pushers

“Soft-peddling” a faulty homonym

Now that Barack Obama is president, one columnist wanted to know, weren’t the late-night comedians, who had taken so many... More

Able Action

When the audience isn’t in on the definition

English has no grammar police to prevent someone from taking a word and putting it to work with another meaning,... More

Not So Impeachy

“Impeachment”: a clarification

When the Illinois House of Representatives voted to “impeach” Governor Rod Blagojevich, a number of blogs carried public comments like... More

Our Tense Past

Sneaking a dive into a swim

When you tell your friends that you took a swim yesterday, did you say you “swam” yesterday or that you... More

Kicking the Can

Congress describes its take on an auto bailout

In late November, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Big Three automakers that they needed to devise a better financial... More

Missed Step

Using “set foot in” is a step in the right direction

Everyone has language pet peeves: those little things people say that aren’t quite right, and that we can’t help but... More

The Britishisms Are Coming!

Gobsmacked by the recent British slang invasion

“I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could easily have come from a President McCain,” Max Boot, a... More

Healthy Usage

Here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving was a healthful one

Here’s hoping everyone ate only “healthy” foods at Thanksgiving. Many people, including those watching calories or wanting to be “healthy,”... More

Poisonous Coinage

Tracing the evolution of the term “toxic loan”

As the country tries to escape its economic doldrums, there’s been a lot of talk about how banks made “toxic... More

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

Serial creators don’t know what will happen to Adnan Syed - New developments in his legal case suggest that the outcome is wide open

The press is responsible for ignoring Bill Cosby rape allegations - Where were journalists 10 years ago when claims originally surfaced against him?

Journalism has a plagiarism problem. But it’s not the one you’d expect - Fareed Zakaria’s case highlights news organizations’ ethical grey areas

4 topics John Oliver explained more clearly than television news - The political satirist brings explainer comedy to HBO viewers

Will radio save science journalism? - WNYC will soon have a new health unit


CNN reporters in Ferguson provide coverage of CNN reporters in Ferguson (Slate)

“[T]here was little that justified CNN’s egocentric coverage”

Which media outlets use ‘illegal immigrant’? (Fusion)

“[I]n spite of all the good reasons not to use the phrase, it is still very easy to find in the US press, even in headlines”

Jack Shafer on losing his job (Capital New York)

“Right now, my immediate plan is to go to work as a lay therapist at The Intercept to bring the healing there so John Cook and Matt Taibbi can return. I have great interpersonal skills.”

On outlets that continue to call unknown drone victims ‘militants’ (The Intercept)

“Like the US drone program itself, this deceitful media practice continues unabated”

Bloggingheads

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

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Who Owns What

The Business of Digital Journalism

A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Study Guides

Questions and exercises for journalism students.