Category Archives: Uncategorized

The white stuff

As snowstorms batter (storms always batter) much of the United States (ABC News the other day had 53 million Americans “impacted,” even though ABC never divulges how it gets its numbers), there’s the inevitable application of the Journalese Law of the Curved Yellow Fruit. (In case your forgot the law, it prohibits use of that the same main word in a sentence. Thus, banana become the curved yellow fruit.) In… Read Article →

Peace Prize? You too can be nominated.

A little-known rule of journalese requires that a story about anyone the reporter admires must note that he or she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. AP followed this rule in a Nov. 9, 2019, story. See lede below. Sounds like a great achievement, almost as fine as a Hollywood Academy Award nomination. Except stories never mention that anyone can be nominated for the Peace Prize. All you… Read Article →

Classic rule of headlines.

Journalese of the Day: Classic rule: If a headline can be screwed up, it will be. Here’s a beaut, from newsletter.Esquire.com, Oct. 24, 2019. “Timex Just Debuted a Stylish New Watch That Won’t Last Long” The watch is a Timex Navi XL Automatic. It’s a diver’s special. Esquire says it’s so hot, it will be scooped up pretty quickly. Story doesn’t say how long the watch will last under water…. Read Article →

In the tranches with the NY Times.

A style law at the New York Times requires reporters to use a foreign or hi-falutin’ word whenever possible. Here’s a great example in a Sept. 28, 2019, story: “WASHINGTON — House Democrats, kick-starting their impeachment inquiry into President Trump, subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, demanding he produce a tranche of documents related to the president’s dealings with Ukraine.” Now, unless you are a banker, investor or… Read Article →

To sober up, or not.

. Our journalese dictionary definition of sobering is: “This is going to wake you up even if you never drink or are already sober.” However, when it comes to college students, who rarely, if ever, need sobering, they soon will sober up. Or need a drink. Here’s a teaser by Boston’s TV channel 5, WCVB news, on Sept. 19, 2019: “A new and sobering statistic about student loans.” File under:… Read Article →

From hulking to glittering.

Friends might recall that several weeks ago I noted how The Boston Globe violated the Law of Hulking by characterizing the Boston Harbor Encore casino as “hulking,” a word that exclusively is applied to parking garages or other large buildings the reporter doesn’t like and developers want to replace with money-making offices or condos. Evidently, word went out that a venture the Globe endorsed, and especially one that is owned… Read Article →

Hifallutin words law

The New York Times has a rule, not found in its Style Manual, that says every story must use at least one word that the average reader must go to a dictionary to understand. And even then, it may not make much sense. An example of this was “transformational” in the following lede of a story about the Sept. 12, 2019, Democratic candidates’ “debate” : “HOUSTON — The leading Democratic… Read Article →

The hulking supertanker

Traditional journalese calls for “hulking” to be the description of a parking garage or other large building a reporter doesn’t like, and which, by coincidence, a well-heeled developer and pal of the mayor wants to replace with high-rise condos or an office building. But USA Today on Sept 8, 2019, has an unusual application: a supertanker. Here’s the story lede: “WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has used diplomatic pressure, legal… Read Article →

Moby Dick Law of Journalese

A little-known (that means the reporter just learned something he or she hopes most people haven’t heard about): The Moby Dick Law of Journalese. Reporters at New England newspapers (what’s left of them) must regularly use Moby Dick as a metaphor. This is to show that the reporters remembered something from American Lit 101. The law is especially enforced in coastal newspapers, even though Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick” in… Read Article →

Wild-caught what?

Journalese of the Day: You won’t believe this… Our Journalese Dictionary includes a section “Plat du Journalese — A menu of essential ingredients found in spicing up or watering down restaurant reviews and food features.” Although our list ranges from Artisanal: “Homemade from scratch. So they say,” to Well-structured: “A dish that stands up all by itself,” we missed an essential description of any seafood: “wild-caught.” This is so common… Read Article →