By now, you've likely heard about an awful incident in which a man was viciously dragged off an overbooked United flight. You've likely also heard about the euphemism United CEO Oscar Munoz used in the immediate aftermath: "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers." Deep down, we're all clueless airline executives. When we're ashamed or just want to dodge blame, we use or concoct terms that create a bubble of balderdash around the truth. Here are some of the latest and lamest.  Continue reading...
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A new uncertainty besets people about the quality of information presented to them, and if there was any expectation that the prevalence of prevarication from authorities would end when the 2016 presidential election season concluded, that expectation has not survived.  Continue reading...
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By most reliable measures, 2016 has been a very good year for fiction lovers. I'm not talking here about literature; I'm talking about the opposite of fact. In mid-November, Oxford Dictionaries declared post-truth to be its word of the year. Indeed, it's been a banner year for all the words we have at our disposal to say, "Nope, it just ain't so."  Continue reading...
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A couple of years ago I wrote about irritating the habit of clickbait purveyors to withhold critical information in the text of their clickable link in order to tantalize readers. The promise is that the thirst for missing but suggested information will be slaked with a simple click. Since then, the tendency has gotten worse.  Continue reading...
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Political comedy Veep is a show blessed with writers capable of concocting obscenities that are novel and visceral. It's the filthiest show on TV. But it's also a show that cranks out terms on the opposite end of the offensiveness spectrum: euphemisms.  Continue reading...
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Captain America: Civil War is a hit film at the early summer box office, having recently surpassed 1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. The film raises a lot of questions. A basic question can be answered well before that having to do with the language of the title: How can a War be Civil?  Continue reading...
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In 1948, the American journalist and language chronicler H.L. Mencken wrote an essay for The New Yorker, "Video Verbiage," in which he analyzed the lingo of the fledgling medium of television. Several of the words he gathered are now obsolete: vaudeo ("televised vaudeville"), televiewers (now just "viewers"), blizzard head (an actress so blonde that the lighting has to be toned down). Others are with us still, including telegenic and telecast. Nearly 70 years after Mencken published his essay, television itself is undergoing a massive redefinition, and so is our TV lexicon.  Continue reading...
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