Go Trendy, Stay Alive

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, at 11:09 am

Americans used to love their newspapers and magazines. Now a whole generation regards them as quaint curiosities. Here’s a day in the life of a late-twentieth-century big-city newspaper: “The newsroom was packed with reporters keeping very close watch on every institution in town. They had two reporters covering city hall, three reporters covering the police …

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Beware the Internet

Posted on Monday, November 14, 2016, at 10:33 pm

Our Virginia: Past and Present is a fourth-grade history textbook that was in wide use in Virginia’s schools until a few years ago. Then it was found to be rife with misspellings and blatant falsehoods, such as: The Confederacy consisted of twelve states (actually eleven). The United States entered World War I in 1916 (it …

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The G-Rated Truth

Posted on Monday, November 7, 2016, at 11:16 am

Euphemisms put a happy face on the world’s brutishness. When a player is laid out by a ferocious hit in a football game, announcers downplay it with a cheerful “He really got his bell rung.” We had a Department of War from the eighteenth century until the late 1940s. Then it was renamed the Department …

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Apostrophes with Words Ending in s

Posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, at 10:15 am

While normal people wonder about apostrophes in general, believe it or not, word nerds have heated arguments over whether to use an additional s with singular possession. Rule 1: Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas). There are conflicting …

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Big Words We Can Use

Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at 3:35 pm

To many Americans, big words are an affront. People who use fancy words are trying to show us up, flaunting their education and intelligence, rubbing our noses in our own shortcomings. It’s true there are people who use their vocabularies to intimidate. It’s a shabby tactic, and it’s sad how effective it can be. Many …

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