Barbara Wallraff

Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

  • Word Fugitives

    Toeing the line; Oh, no, you dishn't!

  • Word Court

    Dubious distinctions; the F-word

  • Word Fugitives

    In December a woman who likes to imitate peculiar sounds asked for a word on her husband’s behalf—one he could use when she does it in public,…

  • Word Court

    Fast and unloose; late-model blues

  • Word Fugitives

    Reasonable people may disagree: Is a husband who puts his friends to shame by lavishing presents on his wife a wanker, a schmuck, maybe even an…

  • Word Court

    Janet Testerman, of Naples, Fla., writes: “I am teaching a high-school world-history class for the first time this year, and I’m baffled. At…

  • Word Fugitives

    In the July/August issue, we sought a catchall term for the heap of stuff new parents suddenly find themselves toting around along with their…

  • Word Court

    KENNETH SHAY, of Ann Arbor, Mich., writes, “Has systematic violation of a particular kind of subject-verb agreement become so commonplace as to…

  • Word Fugitives

    Who knew that people could get so worked up about the domestic behavior of total strangers? In May a woman des­cribed her husband as a “pack…

  • Word Court

    Gerrit Petersen, of Brookline, Mass., writes: “With increasing frequency, I’ve been hearing the phrase to step foot in substituted for the…

  • Word Fugitives

    In March we asked for “a word to de­scribe a kind of typographical error: hitting a function key by mistake while typing on a computer,”…

  • Word Court

    Craig R. Nunn, of Nashville, Tenn., writes: “I’ve become increasingly intolerant of what must be the most common redundancy in our language:…

  • Word Fugitives

    What would be “a word for that time of half sleep when one thinks of the solution to a problem” or the like? This challenge, when it was…

  • Word Court

    CATHY CIKRA of Hartville, Ohio, writes: "A colleague and I have a dispute about 'dangling' participles at the ends of sentences. He takes an…

  • Word Fugitives

    In October a reader in Kingston, Washington, requested a word for "the reflection of moonlight on water and the way it follows you as you…

  • Word Court

    David Paisley, of Lakewood, Ohio, writes, "This drives me crazy: service used as a verb by supposedly intelligent people in the social-services…

  • Word Fugitives

    In July a reader sought "a term for a smell that you recognize but can't place." As was mentioned in the October issue, word fugitives for all kinds…

  • Word Court

    George Wolff, of St. Pete Beach, Florida, writes, "Can you settle a dispute for me? My wife, who is quite strict about grammar, is not prepared to…

  • Word Fugitives

    In May a reader asked, "What is the word to describe the moment right before you are about to do something terribly stupid, when everything runs in…

  • Word Court

    Daniel S. Weir, of East Aurora, New York, writes, "A usage that I've begun seeing and hearing disturbs me. A recent newspaper headline read, 'School…

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