Oh, that Afghan woman!

The most puzzling headline in quite a while was in The Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2017. Not for what it said but for what it didn’t say. It read: “Sweden may deport Afghan woman.” Well, there are probably 100,000 Afghan women in Sweden, some with permanent residency, but most without. And deporting one Afghan woman wouldn’t be newsworthy enough to warrant a story and headline in any American paper, not… Read Article →

Large-caliber guns, high-caliber weapons.

Unfortunately, news being what it is, I have often said that all reporters and copy editors — and editorial writers — should have completed at least basic training in the armed forces. That way they would know a bit about weapons and the military. What brings this up is an editorial in The Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2017, headlined “Trump order will militarize police and sow fear.” I’m not arguing… Read Article →

Muslim ban

Far be for me to defend Donald Trump — he has millions of knuckleheaded gullibles doing that — but how about some accuracy in what has become accepted journalese by the media’s reporting his “Muslim ban.” A quick search for “Muslim ban” in the New York Times got 171 hits, and The Boston Globe 169. The first of the listed Times’s headlines was for an op-ed: “How Trump is Stealthily… Read Article →

Who’s on the grill?

A dictionary definition of the verb grill, other than to broil on a gridiron, is “to question relentlessly, to cross-examine.” In its classic movie application, it’s what cops do to a sweating suspect who is seated in a chair under a single light bulb, with the cops threatening with rubber hoses. In journalese, it’s anyone, usually a politician, being asked questions. Grill is a short, punchy verb, great in a… Read Article →

Operative in the guise of…

Our Journalese Dictionary definition of operative is: “Anyone getting paid to promote someone or something. Political operatives are not identified as shady but often are.” The American Dictionary of the English Language has it: “1. A skilled worker, especially in industry. 2.a. A secret or trusted agent. 2.b. A private detective.” What brings this up is a lede in a Boston Globe story, Aug. 21, 2017, about the latest candidate… Read Article →

Some voices…

Over the half-century or so that I’ve been in the news trade, I’ve written some goofy headlines. So I’m quick to forgive a lot of heads. Writing them to fit the space allowed, under deadline, and after an exhaustive night out, it ain’t always easy. But sometimes a head belongs to the “Today is Tuesday” class, those that would make the comic strip Non Sequitur’s “Obvious Man” proud. Here’s a… Read Article →

Everyone excited

Have you noticed how everyone is excited about just about everything these days? It can range from a company’s hiring a new finance chief after the last one got caught sharing the profits, or a publisher naming a new third assistant obit editor, the mayor cutting the ribbon of a developer donor’s latest subsidized building, or a Hollywood star getting engaged for the fifth time this year. They are all… Read Article →

Beware of a tout

Our definition of tout begins: “A favorite verb when a group or promoter is pushing something that an editor doesn’t 100 percent respect.” We quote Mike Feinsilber of the Associated Press: “It is a nice short lead word…but to some (read that: me) it has a tawdry, racetrack, carnivalish tone….” What brings this up is a recent Boston Globe story headlined: “City touts affordable housing bump.” The story is about… Read Article →


Have you ever heard anyone ask, “Which eatery did you dine at?” Or: “What’s the best eatery in the neighborhood?” I’ll bet you never heard anyone say the word eatery. Which makes it classic journalese. It’s often used according to the Bent Yellow Fruit Law, which prohibits an important word from being used twice in the same sentence. (“The banana boat longshoremen loaded the cargo of bent yellow fruit.”) A… Read Article →

Relatively moderate.

Journalese of the Day: A Law of Journalese requires political leaders to be labelled according to the opinion of the reporter and editor. A striking example was in a Washington Post story, July 17, 2017, about Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s brother’s being arrested for “unspecified financial crimes.” The story reported: “Sunday’s developments came less than two months after the relatively moderate Rouhani beat a hard-line opponent to win reelection, running… Read Article →