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What’s a Snollygoster? Even lexicographers are wrong sometimes

This is an amusing little story about how politics affects the English language. An obscure word that politicians and pundit like to use to refer to their opponents has faded in and out of use. The “wrong” move was removing the word from the dictionary recently, after which it made a comeback. (I’d still never heard of it.) As the dialectal furor faded, so too did snollygoster—so much so that…

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“People are much more frightened than they are bigoted,” making his economic message resonate with “fed up” blue-collar voters, says Trump observer

No actor says “My character does this and says that because he is evil.” How many voters wake up in the morning saying, “I support this candidate because I am evil, stupid, and/or racist”? Nobody votes “against women’s reproductive rights” or “against unborn babies.” Those are labels provided by the opposition, not the identity claimed by the group members. People vote a certain way because they are voting *for* something.…

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‘WarGames’ and Cybersecurity’s Debt to a Hollywood Hack

After finishing his synopsis, Reagan turned to Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and asked: “Could something like this really happen?” Could someone break into our most sensitive computers? General Vessey said he would look into it. One week later, the general returned to the White House with his answer. “WarGames,” it turned out, wasn’t far-fetched. “Mr. president,” he said, “the problem is…

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When Asking the Question is Part of the News Story (New Example: Clinton Supporters)

I ask my journalism students to avoid using the phrase “When asked about…” as a default transition in news stories. While they are taught in freshman comp classes to introduce their quotes and then explain the significance of the quotes, to a journalist that’s just filler. This story from the Daily Mail (a UK publication which has a reputation for being gossipy and conservative) covers shows pictures of teens and…

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How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus

It can be scary outside the box. A university is a box that people choose to enter. It can be scary in there, too. I don’t feel like I’m doing my job as a professor if I don’t make students feel at least a little uncomfortable. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some…

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Sesame Street Is Moving to HBO, and the Symbolism Is Crushing

I’ve been fascinated by the rhetoric of headlines surrounding the “Sesame Street moves to HBO” story. * HBO gentrifies ‘Sesame Street’ –VentureBeat * Sesame Street Episodes Will Shrink to Half an Hour –Time * Sesame Street Is Heading to HBO, and Getting Even Bigger –Esquire * This episode of Sesame Street brought to you by the letters HBO –Financial Times In short, Sesame Street was founded to help low-income kids keep up…