Data mining an old story

Stories of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytics brouhaha miss a basic point, according to a Boston Herald editorial Mar. 23, 2018, headlined “Data mining not new.” The editorial points out that despite the screaming, there is nothing new nor illegal about it. The editorial says: “This type of scrutiny by detractors is reserved for this particular president. Media raved when the Obama campaign used similar data to target voters in the 2012… Read Article →

Right from the horse’s mouth.

A classic quote by Boston’s late mayor, Thomas Menino, was his description of a nagging city problem: “It’s an Alcatraz around my neck.” Menino’s successor is not quite as eloquent, but here’s a beaut, from a press release about $15 million to fund affordable housing, and published in the North End Regional Review, Mar. 16, 2018: “Preserving Boston’s affordability is key to ensuring everyone who wants to live here can’t… Read Article →

Oust very much in.

Oust is wonderful journalese, very much in the news as Ouster-in-Chief Trump puts his old show-biz line, “You’re fired!” to use every other day. Latest, of course, to get the boot is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. What makes “oust” so popular is that it’s short and sweet for a headline. And making it qualify for listing as journalese is that it’s never used in ordinary conversation. When did you… Read Article →

Nor’easter explained.

One of my favorite journalese weather terms is “nor’easter,” used to describe just about any major New England storm, whether it’s from the northeast or from anywhere else. The Boston Globe, Mar. 7, 2018, has a good “Lexicon” column answering, “So, what exactly is a nor’easter?” Mark Liberman, linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is quoted. He backs up my thesis that the term is a “fake regionalism.” Check… Read Article →

Are socialites still socializing?

One of our favorite journalese descriptions is “socialite.” You never hear someone say, “She’s a socialite, the widow of Throckmorton Moneybags III.” Or, “I’m inviting several socialites to our dinner party.” You only see the word in news stories. The Merriam-Webster definition of a socialite is: “a socially prominent person.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language is more specific: “One prominent in fashionable society.” Of course, the word… Read Article →

Memories of Smilin’ Jack.

If you’re older than your millennial kids, you may remember Smilin’ Jack, the comic strip about a hot-shot aviator of the same name. Aviator: it brings up memories of guys wearing leather helmets, goggles, at the stick in an open cockpit of a bi-plane, in dog-fights with enemies like the Red Baron. (Check out “Smilin’ Jack” on Google and you’ll see a classic aviator in action.) What brings this up… Read Article →

Which story to believe?

You read Bloomberg BusinessWeek of Jan. 22, 2018, and find this story: “Out from Under the ‘Bamboo Ceiling,’ ” with the sub-head: “Silicon Valley is losing talented Chinese engineers to, well, China.” And in the story: “While many recent Chinese college graduates still covet American citizenship and a prestigious Valley name on their resumes, many are quickly tiring of what they call a ‘bamboo ceiling,’ a relative lack of opportunities… Read Article →

Rusty laser focus out of focus

“Laser focus” is journalese for a quality of a politician or business big-shot admired by the reporter. This was applied to Mitt Romney in a Boston Globe story Feb. 17, 2018 about his announcement he’s running as a Republican for the Utah Senate seat being vacated by Republican Orin Hatch: “His laser focus on Utah in a two-minute video announcement revealed how eager the 70-year-old Romney is to tout his… Read Article →

Everyone is a curator.

Ever notice how everyone who puts something together in a list or show or event is now a curator? Curate, as a verb, is not even listed in my edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the American Language. OK, it’s not the latest edition. Merriam-Webster defines the transitive verb curate: “to act as curator of; curate a museum: an exhibit curated by the museum’s director.” Yeah, that’s the dictionary…. Read Article →

Disovering the obscure

Our journalese dictionary definition of “obscure” is: “Anything not known to the reporter before working on the story.” It’s a favorite explanation for missing an important detail or an entire story. An example was in a New York Times story Feb. 10, 2018, headlined in the Boston Globe: “Trump won’t declassify Democratic memo.” The story explains, “Under the obscure rule invoked by the House Intelligence Committee to initiate the document’s… Read Article →