Human Capital

A tip of the hat to the Biotech Devil’s Dictionary by STAT, the biotech newsletter published by the owner of The Boston Globe (and Boston Red Sox). The dictionary’s goal is the clear up “a lot of jargon, coded language and outright nonsense in biotech.” Here’s today’s item: “Human capital (n.): An ironically dehumanizing phrase used to liken living, breathing people to business assets, which is either a terrifying glimpse… Read Article →

NY Times euphemism: murderer becomes an activist.

The New York Times gets today’s prize for slanting the news by identifying a convicted murderer as a “controversial activist.” In a Nov. 13, 2017, story headlined “An Arab Bakery in Oakland Full of California Love”, reporter Rebecca Flint Marx writes: “Reem’s is one of a handful of Arab bakeries in the Bay Area — but it is likely the only one where you’ll find the children’s book ‘A Is… Read Article →


A journalese favorite, especially in headlines, is “grill.” Whenever someone is questioned, he or she is grilled. It brings on imagines of 1930s films, with a suspect sitting under a single light bulb surrounded by burly cops wearing shoulder holsters and snarling (burly cops never talked, they snarled): “So you won’t talk, eh????” But now, any question, polite or not, is a grilling. An example is a New York Times… Read Article →

Number as a headline.

I don’t know what bugs me worse: a number used as a headline over a short story, or my reading the damn story. Back in the old days, they would be called fillers. And I suppose they do break up a grey page. (Perhaps Patrick Garvin of The Boston Globe can inform us what the copy desk calls them.) What brings this on are two examples in today’s (Nov. 7,… Read Article →

Stenography in the guise of reporting

When a news story simply states what a press release says, without any question, it’s not reporting, it’s stenography. This is illustrated in a story in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest morning daily, on Oct. 25, 2017, about Sweden’s foreign aid. The story reports 2018 aid will total about $5 billion, an increase of roughly $75 million over the current budget year. Single largest recipient is Afghanistan, which will get about… Read Article →

Progressives face a sticky wicket.

Who’s a progressive? And what’s a sticky wicket? Ask 100 Americans those questions, and you’ll get 100 different answers for progressive and 99 “What the hell’s a sticky wicket?” for the sticky wicket. (One person you asked spent time in England. He knew.) OK, I didn’t run a test. But I doubt if there is any agreement on  who exactly qualifies to be called a progressive. Nobody wants to be… Read Article →

Political zeitgeist?

Our definition of zeitgeist starts: “Reporter shows off his German when he means the spirit of the time.”  Our example was a Seattle story in 2010 that reported that the sockeye salmon would be a top candidate to illustrate “our have-it-all, eco-wannabe zeitgeist.”  An updated, more human example was in a Boston Globe story, Sept. 28, 2017, about Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican in the bluest of blue… Read Article →

Biotech Devil’s Dictionary

The Boston Globe, in its Business section Sept 25, 2017, has a great feature headlined, “The Biotech Devil’s Dictionary: Your guide to the inanities of industry  jargon.”  Written by Damian Garde of  STAT, the reporting service on health, medicine and science, produced by Boston Globe Media, the dictionary is described as follows: “Biotech can be a breeding ground for jargon, coded language, and outright nonsense, as investors and scientists probe… Read Article →

Teasers ‘R’ Us.

AOL News on Sept. 19, 2017 gets the prize for the week’s best  (worst? most amusing? least enticing?) story teaser.  Here it is:  “Major retailer files for bankruptcy ahead of holidays “The Chapter 11 filing on Monday is among the largest ever by a specialty retailer and casts doubt over the future of its 1,600 stores and 64,000 employees. “Iconic US retail chain in trouble” If you have to… Read Article →

Personality, useful euphemism

The American Heritage Dictionary says the term “personality, for celebrity or notable, is widely used in speech and journalism.” I would add that it can be used when reporters want to avoid telling  the truth about an individual. An example of this was in an AP story, Sept. 13, 2017, about the White House naming Hope Hicks as communications director.  The story explains: “Hicks, 28, is the third White… Read Article →