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Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Snark Hunt

The search for the true meaning

Sometimes, dictionaries just don’t get it. this one will define a word one way; that one will define the same... More

Hopefully Yours

Is “full of hope” full of it?

“Hopefully,” Americans have been watching the first overseas visit of President Barack Obama. Those Americans who were taught English and... More

Firing Blanks

Is everyone who loses a job “fired”?

The day Brenda Starr has been dreading has arrived. Her new boss, Mr. Bottomline, says she has become too expensive.... More

Stop, Fief!

A long-term lease on a made-up word

Let us travel back to those thrilling days of feudalism, when lords were lords and everyone else paid high taxes... More

Waif Goodbye

How various dictionaries define the word “waif”

Let’s say you find a “waif” on the street and take it home. Should you call an orphanage, an animal... More

Wait Lifted

Do you wait for, on, or upon someone?

For hundreds of years, linguists, grammarians, and others have argued over what word should follow “wait,” as in “I am... More

Persuasive Convincing

On the vanishing distinctions between “persuade” and “convince”

Back when English grammar was rigorously taught in schools, certain rules were hammered into students’ heads: Never split an infinitive;... More

A Noisome Joy

Another word that doesn’t mean what it looks like it means

Think of all the words that don’t mean what their spellings seem to indicate they mean—among the ones already discussed... More

Presidents Setting

Attempting to punctuate President(s)(s’)(’s) Day

We used to have two holidays in February: Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. Now, we have three, though most of... More

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

Virginian-Pilot journalists: Corporate management pressure is stifling coverage - “Lovers of journalism in this newsroom are pissed. It’s bad.”

Paper files public records request—and city’s response is a lawsuit - Local officials argue Montana courts should strike balance between privacy and disclosure

BBC Pop-Up reports from small town America - A small team is traveling across the United States for six months in hopes of finding underreported local stories

What game design can do for journalism - Three newly selected fellows at American University talk about the medium’s future

Timeline, an app based on ‘the history of…’ - But chronology doesn’t reveal everything


Photojournalism while pregnant (NYT Mag)

“Momentarily forgetting I was pregnant, I jockeyed for a position close enough to capture the initial moments of euphoria, hurling myself into the mix of hundreds of frenzied relatives. As the weight of men started to close in on me, I realized how vulnerable I was and started to panic.”

We should all step back from security journalism (Medium)

“It should be made clear, in law, that the tasks security reseachers do to make the net more secure and journalists do to understand and contextualize the truth for the public are not crimes”

Trust In Business And Media Is Declining, But People Have Faith In Search Engines (Buzzfeed)

People have become less trusting of major institutions, according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer. And large majorities doubt that businesses want to make the world a better place.

With New Charlie Hebdo Cover, News Value Should Have Prevailed (NYT)

Public editor Margaret Sullivan on why the paper should have published the images.

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.