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

    In March, Word Fugitives sought an American equivalent for the Irish term witches' knickers, which refers to "disposable plastic bags caught in…

  • Word Court

    Scott Summerville, of Bisbee, Arizona, writes, "Have you noticed the horrid proliferation of unnecessary commas used to separate adjectives? Recent…

  • Word Fugitives

    Last December a reader asked, "What's the word for that restless feeling that causes me to repeatedly peer into the refrigerator when I'm bored?"…

  • Word Court

    Lawrence A. Peskin, of Baltimore, writes, "I worked hard in graduate school to obtain what I thought was my graduate degree, but recently I've found…

  • Word Fugitives

    Last October this page sought a word for a person "who, in looking up a word in the dictionary, is compelled to look across the page for another,…

  • Word Court

    JIM PHILPOT, of Cookeville, Tennessee, writes, "In last November's Word Court you wrote, 'None of the major Romance languages—languages directly…

  • Word Fugitives

    Do you have a word fugitive you'd like The Atlantic's help finding? Send an e-mail to Barbara Wallraff at msgrammar@theatlantic.com. Letters become…

  • Word Court

    ELIZABETH E. STEVENS, of Manhattan, Kansas, writes, "In the past week I have noticed the term bona fides in two different sources. In each case the…

  • Word Fugitives

    Do you have a word fugitive you'd like The Atlantic's help finding? Send an e-mail to Barbara Wallraff at msgrammar@theatlantic.com. Letters become…

  • Word Court

    Do you have a language dispute? Send e-mail to Barbara Wallraff at msgrammar@theatlantic.com. Letters become the property of Word Court and may be…

  • Word Fugitives

    Do you have a word fugitive you'd like The Atlantic's help finding? Send e-mail to Barbara Wallraff at msgrammar@theatlantic.com. Letters become the…

  • Word Court

    KENT TANKERSLEY, of Helsinki, Finland, writes, "I work in a European office of a multinational company. After I recently wrote the somewhat clichéd…

  • Word Court

    KARL SUTTERFIELD, of Eastlake, Colorado, writes, "Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by being called a civilian by other civilians who happen to work…

  • Word Court

    WILLIAM PEAK, of Easton, Maryland, writes, "Does the term robin's-egg blue have the same meaning in England as it does in the United States? Old…

  • Word Court

    Edward Dermon, of Roslyn Heights, New York, writes, "Certain holidays upset me because I find myself bombarded by grammatically incorrect…

  • Word Court

    Andrew Yee, of Brookline, Massachusetts, writes, "A friend and I were having a pleasantly heated discussion about the appropriate use of the word…

  • Word Fugitives

    In March we requested a word for a "tendency to make more mistakes ... if a very critical person is watching." Along with aspiring words, a flood of…

  • Word Court

    Patrick Edsall, of Mountain View, California, writes, "I was told that the term crowbar was racist. My co-worker said it was derived from Jim Crow,…

  • Word Court

    Maureen Migrditchian, of Mission Viejo, California, writes, "As a teacher, I keep correcting student writing that uses can not as two separate words…

  • Word Court

    Paul Wolfson, of Washington, D.C., writes, "I have always thought that first-generation American referred to someone who was the first person in a…

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