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This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the premiere episode of "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert's endlessly entertaining sendup of political pundit programs. On that episode, Colbert introduced the word "truthiness," which has proved so popular that it has entered the latest edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary. For my On Language column in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colbert (as himself, not his put-upon persona) and learned the inside story of "truthiness." Here is an extended excerpt from our conversation.  Continue reading...
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When I entered Edward R. Murrow High School after 22 years of teaching English and journalism at another Brooklyn high school, I entered a different world. No bells rang to begin and end periods. No hallway passes required; to go to the bathroom during class, students simply left the classroom without asking permission. In the hallways no adult ever asked, "Where do you belong?"

Where was I? In college?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Moynihan's Sesquipedalianism

Newly published letters from longtime New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan reveal his efforts to popularize the word floccinaucinihili­pilificationism ("the futility of making estimates on the accuracy of public data"). Read about it on The New York Times City Room blog here.
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In our first writing class every September, I tell my students to print in their notebooks, big capital letters, please, that to tell a story, a writer must:

GET A PERSON IN A PLACE
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Okay, let's be honest. I'll go on record and say it. Some students are naturally more gifted at writing essays than others. Oftentimes these are the students to whom writing simply springs forth. It doesn't matter if it's narrative, persuasive, expository or descriptive, these students' paragraphs simply flow and their choice of words seems innate. These students naturally gravitate to the honors level classes, expanding their essays in ways that make teachers' eyes tear up with joy.  Continue reading...
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Back when I was entertainment editor at a metropolitan daily, my phone used to ring several times an hour with calls from publicists. I anticipated these calls with about as much enthusiasm as a cat displays for a vet.  Continue reading...
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Last Sunday I wrote an On Language column for The New York Times Magazine about the editorial we, and all the sarcastic jokes that have been made about the presumptuous pronoun. "Nameless authors of editorials may find the pronoun we handy for representing the voice of collective wisdom," I wrote, "but their word choice opens them up to charges of gutlessness and self-importance." Since the column appeared, some of those voices of collective wisdom have risen to defend themselves.  Continue reading...
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3 4 5 6 7 Displaying 29-35 of 43 Articles