Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Last Update: Tue 6:50 AM EST

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

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

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

Alessandra Stanley’s troubling history of error

Why one editor won’t run any more op-eds by the Heritage Foundation’s top economist - A reply to Paul Krugman on state taxes and job growth made some incorrect claims

Is ISIS a faith-based terrorist group? - Journalists and scholars disagree about how much Islam, rather than politics and power, drives Muslim extremists

Why Bill Simmons might leave ESPN - Other outlets would jump at the chance to gain his following

Why news organizations are abandoning the Redskins - The media mostly avoids Washington’s football team name


Mag for dog haters is a hit in Germany (WSJ)

Poop and Pooches. That is all

A data viz reading list (Susan McGregor)

Useful resources for journalists

Video shows Mexican drug lord paying journalists for ‘good press’ (Fusion)

“This video suggests that organized crime is trying to buy off journalists, creating a new brand of narco-journalism”

Forest Service says media needs photography permit in wilderness areas, alarming First Amendment advocates (Oregonian)

“Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone”

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.