Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Word Thursday: rodomontade

I have transformed New Word Wednesday into New Word Thursday (a more alliterative name might be on the way) in part so I could use Wednesday's slot to direct you, dear reader, to my new weekly column at, and in part to give myself some breathing room so I don't have to have two posts ready every Wednesday.

If you didn't catch the column yesterday, you really ought to go read it. I'm generally a humble guy, but yesterday's "Death, Destruction, and Word Choice" really is the best blog post about decimate, annihilate, obliterate, and devastate that ever was or ever shall be. Amen. My mother really loved it. Yours did, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Word When Again? A Change in Programming

New Word Wednesday will now move to (New Word) Thursday so that, on Wednesdays, I can direct you all to my new weekly vocabulary and usage column at

My first post is about the word decimate and its siblings annihilate, obliterate, and devastate.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Who Bans Books? Concerned Parents

Over the past three days, I've written about some large, powerful groups that have flexed and sometimes continue to flex their muscles to keep people from reading certain books. In the United States, though, the most common group seeking to ban books is described by the name "Concerned Parents." That's the subject of my final Banned Books Week post.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who Bans Books? Governments

In Tuesday's post, I mentioned how the development of the printing press and the growth of the printing industry helped spread both literacy and, to the chagrin of the papacy, the ideas of the Protest Reformation. Part of the Church's response to the wider dissemination of ideas antithetical to Church doctrine was to create the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of dangerous authors and works that good, pious people should stay away from and that local authorities should bar and destroy.

The Church wasn't the only institution threatened by the burgeoning printing industry. Thanks to printing presses, writers who were critical of government could easily and cheaply distribute their gripes to waiting minds around the world.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Who Bans Books? Islamic Groups

Yesterday, I wrote about the history of book censorship in the Catholic Church, but it certainly isn't the only religious group to try to keep certain texts out of its adherents' hands. Different Islamic groups and authorities have also condemned books — and even called for the murder of their authors — that were seen as antithetical to or blasphemous toward Muslim doctrine.

New Word Wednesday: imprimatur

When we're talking about a group censoring books (and thus ideas) — as I did yesterday in my post about censorship in the Catholic Church — it's fitting that we also talk about the opposite. True, over the last 450 years, the Catholic Church has tried to weed out and protect its pious members from the dangers of unethical, erroneous, and heretical ideas, but most books go through the process unscathed and make it to publication.

Which brings us to today's word: imprimatur.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Who Bans Books? The Catholic Church

Banned Books Week always brings out some wild stories about books being banned for outrageous reasons. My favorite has always been the one about Fahrenheit 451 being banned because it's about the horrible and detrimental act of book burning. I have no idea whether it's true that a book was censored because it was about censorship, but it's a clear sign of the kind of idiocy and irony we have come to accept. And my joyful reaction to that story is, I admit, a type of intellectual Schadenfreude.

But whenever I hear these stories, and especially during Banned Books Week, I am always left wondering who it is that is doing the banning. What people or groups claim to have the authority to keep other people from looking at words on a page?

Monday, September 28, 2015 By Editors, For Editors

For twenty-five years, has been a great rallying point and resource for copy editors in all media and at all skill levels. It offers daily posts about grammar, language, style, technology, and job opportunities; monthly educational audioconferences; a job board; and even information about editing Canadian versus American English.

Not to mention nearly three dozen posts by yours truly. (Last Friday's "(Nearly) Identical Twins" is a pretty fun word game, if I do say so myself.)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rewriting prompt: One-syllable edits

Start with a copy of a bit of fiction that you've already written — 200–300 words ought to do it. Rewrite the section using only one-syllable words. Proper nouns are exempt from this shortening, of course; if your story is about Julie from Schenectady, it can still be about her.