Wind-swept and windy modifiers

A Law of Journalese requires that when a modifier is used one or two times, it must always be used in the future. Thus, parking garages are hulking, neighborhoods of immigrants are tight-knit, an old town’s streets are cobblestoned, a blue-collar district is gritty, a boarded up store is an eyesore, anywhere something once took place is historic, and if anyone ever mentioned it, it is storied. What got me… Read Article →


“Strategize” is one of those corporate BS words that has been adopted by reporters, and allowed by editors, to be used in news stories. Strategize sounds more serious and far more important than scheming, planning, thinking about, yakking, mulling, plotting, figuring out, or dozens of other words that are used in everyday speech. We do not define strategize in our dictionary but we do define a “strategist” as: “A hustler… Read Article →

Poised to mull.

Have you ever heard someone say, “We’re poised to go the beach”? Or a shop-owner say, “We are poised to have a spring sale.”? Probably never. “Poised” is classic journalese, most commonly seen in headlines, to mean that someone is getting ready to do something. The dictionary definition says the verb poise means “to weigh mentally, ponder” or “to balance” or “to keep steady.” Nothing about planning or intending to… Read Article →


A favorite journalese verb is “to grill” when it doesn’t mean slapping a steak on a grill in the back yard, but meaning tough questioning, usually by police or prosecutors. (Reporters, however, never grill anyone. They ask hard, in-depth questions in an interview.) A real groaner of the standard grilling usage was in this Boston Herald headline, June 19, 2017: “Top Chef star on menu for grilling in Teamsters trial.”… Read Article →

It’s international: copy editing lacking.

The lack of copy-editing is international, at least in free countries. Illustrations of this are seen regularly in the “Blooper” page of “Journalisten,” the publication of the Swedish journalists’ union. In its issue, 8-9, 2017, I found this one, attributed to Dagens Nyheter, the nation’s largest morning daily: “Attacker mot muslimer som anklagas for äta nötkött och lågkastiga indier har skapat oro för ökad intolerans och hotad yttrandefrihet.” My translation,… Read Article →

Rumors as news.

A sacred Law of Journalese is that rumors must never be identified as rumors. Instead, they are disguised as unidentified sources’ theories, speculation, possibilities, or an observer’s views, with the observer being an anonymous taxi driver who said something smart-ass that the reporter agreed with, or, most likely, the reporter himself or herself. The Associated Press broke the Law of No Rumors on June, 2, 2017, in a news story… Read Article →

Boston jaywalking: Hot news!

This isn’t journalese, but a great letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, May 30, 2017: Everyday scofflaws? Stop the presses Wow. Front-page news — Boston police are not giving out jaywalking tickets! No kidding — the police do not help pedestrians cross the street. You’re on your own. What are those bright, hard-working Globe editors going to inform us about on the front page tomorrow? I can see… Read Article →

A fleet of wind power bull.

Add the word “fleet” to the list of corporate BS being adopted by reporters to mean a bunch of anything. It was misleading enough when wind power hustlers started calling their industrial wind projects “wind farms”. Can’t you see the green fields, cows grazing, crops ripening, hay stacks, chickens, all happy on ol’ McDonald’s farm with a cute windmill far in the background? Well now you have a “fleet” of… Read Article →

A moderate butcher

A “moderate” is the usual description of a smooth-talking butcher, tyrant or murderer whom the reporter and his or her editors admire. Take Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for example. I put “Rouhani” and “moderate’ in a Google search and got 540,000 hits. Most recent references were from “respected” media reporters and columnists, as they gushed over “moderate” Rhounani’s re-election as president. Even Fox News called him a moderate. But there… Read Article →

Taking the helm.

A Law of Journalese requires that an appointment of a new boss must be noted as “taking the helm” even if he or she doesn’t know a helm from a keel. Well, Jim Hackett, the new CEO of Ford, according to CNN, “has a track record that includes self-driving cars, office furniture — and hiring a college football coach.” Nothing there about seamanship, but the headline of an AP story,… Read Article →