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Back when I was a freelance journalist, I had to source all my articles properly. This meant getting objective proof of facts and assertions, typically by interview or with reference to government or company publications. I try to carry this attitude through into my corporate work.  Continue reading...
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The summer I was 17, I worked at a camp in Northeast Ohio, on the Lake Erie shore. I was courting the girl who would later become (and still is) my wife, and many nights we would be up late, watching the slow progress of the oreboats and gazing at the stars over the water. I was on maintenance, and, being the only one who could drive the tractor, I had to get up at five-thirty in the morning and coax the old red Farm-All to life and hook up the homemade, plywood-sided trailer so we could collect the camp's garbage and scrub the latrines. I didn't sleep a lot that summer, but late one night, or more exactly, early one morning while I was enjoying my two hours of rest, the state police knocked on the door of the male staff's dorm.  Continue reading...
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Last night an unusual event happened at the White House. Chief Justice John Roberts re-administered the presidential oath of office to Barack Obama, a day and a half after they had performed the same ritual rather shakily in the inaugural ceremony. White House counsel Gregory B. Craig explained: "We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday. But the oath appears in the Constitution itself, and out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

What was that one out-of-sequence word? Faithfully.  Continue reading...
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I feel like I ought to begin this column with some kind of public service announcement. Maybe a shaky close-up of the cover of the script of Death of a Salesman (preferably the one of Dustin Hoffman in old-age makeup), followed by a slow pan out as we hear Morgan Freeman's voice saying, "Teachers of America, before you teach Arthur Miller's classic, you should know... your students will not understand this play. If you have any choice in the matter — any choice at all — you should choose The Crucible."  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Inaugural Words

The New York Times has a fascinating interactive graphic showing word usage in inaugural addresses from Washington to Obama. Check it out here.

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Barack Obama gives his inaugural address today, but on Sunday he gave a speech that previewed the main event. "Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama said, "I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time." This line echoed his victory speech last November: "I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead." Is Obama misusing enormity, or is he inaugurating a semantic change?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

The Phonetics of MLK

What made Martin Luther King's oratorical style so powerful? Linguist Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania analyzes the phonetics behind the rhetoric here.

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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 39 Articles