On Language

On The Uncomfortable Matter Of Beheadings And Executions

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Where to draw the line on language that reflects reality but provokes repulsion?


What We Hear When NPR Refers To 'Obamacare'

Friday, September 06, 2013

Republicans invented the term "Obamacare" as a way to denigrate the Affordable Care Act. NPR's hosts and reporters now commonly use the term, prompting the ire of some listeners. Is NPR "letting Fox drive the narrative," as one wrote?


The 'Hot' Female Senator and the Rule of Reversibility

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My recent column on the use of words like "perky," "girlie" and "hottest" in referring to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sparked thoughtful responses on how to write about women leaders. There were a couple of clubbings, too. The "Rule of Reversibility" might be a good place to start.


The Honorable 'Girlie' Senator From The State Of New York

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Reporter Ailsa Chang was accused of sexism when she described Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as 'perky" and speaking in a 'girlie' voice. But what if the senator's supporters say the same, while admiring her forceful will in confronting the Pentagon? Are we undercutting women political leaders, or treating them differently from men? Is this a "Legally Blonde" moment?


Elderly, Old Or Aine: Three Provocative Takes On A Label

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Of the many responses to my post on what to call people over 60 (or 70, 80 or 90), the three responses repeated here stand out for their expressiveness — or in the case of Morning Edition sports commentator Frank Deford, for just being downright ornery. Or maybe wise. You might be stimulated to add your own.


Let Me Live Long, But Don't You Dare Call Me Old

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When the headline on the Web version of a recent story called an active, 71-year-old midwife "elderly," she was offended. The reporter, meanwhile, asked for advice on what words to use. A check with experts finds division. Maybe, live forever and avoid labels? Please advise (about the labels).



Partisan Cliffhanging Over A Supposed Fiscal Cliff

Friday, December 07, 2012

Metaphors can be great for framing the urgency of a problem, but what do you do when the image isn't accurate? If you are the president or a Republican Congressional leader, you keep hammering with the metaphor anyway. It's all Ben Bernanke's fault.