Michael Erard, who got his start in writing at the Haverhill Gazette, is the author of "Um ... Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean." The book is due for release in August.

While growing up in Greater Haverhill and attending Central Catholic High School, Michael Erard spent much of his time hanging out with friends and going out with girlfriends in Haverhill; he made a living flipping burgers at the Route 125 McDonald’s. However, it was Erard’s first job in the Haverhill area that would have an impact on his life forever.

The 39 year-old resident of Austin, Texas left the Haverhill area to attend college. After earning a doctorate from the University of Texas, Erard quickly went on to launch an accomplished journalism career as a regular contributor to publications such as the New York Times, The New Republic and Rolling Stone magazine, to name a few. In August, Pantheon, a division of Random House, will publish Erard’s first book: “Um ... Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean.”

The book is just the latest accomplishment for Erard and currently the exclamation point on a career that started at The Haverhill Gazette when the trained linguist was just 14 years old. Over 25 years later, Erard remembers walking into the Gazette’s West Lowell Avenue building for the first time.

“It was the summer of 1981. The (Haverhill) Gazette was a daily. Bob Gablosky was the court reporter; Tom Vartabedian edited the Saturday supplement,” said Erard, setting the scene. “The writing I did was awful but the experience was invaluable, and I’m indebted to Bob and Tom for letting me hang around. Walking into the Gazette building for the first time was where I smelled printer’s ink for the first time. Maybe it’s cliche, but I loved it from the very beginning.”

Erard spoke with his former employer, The Haverhill Gazette:

What inspired your interest in language and specifically the idea for your first book?

My interest in studying the structure of languages — linguistics — came from the two years I spent teaching English in Taiwan after college. I was also learning Mandarin. The differences between the two languages, my experience learning Chinese, the experiences of my students, how the language reflected cultural categories — all that fascinated me, and I wanted to study it more formally. So when I returned to the United States I started grad school in linguistics.

I became interested in writing about verbal blunders listening to reporters and pundits talk about how George W. Bush talks, particularly during the 2000 campaign. His speaking was regularly labeled as abnormal but no one described or explained what normal speaking was, so I decided to investigate that.

Do you consider the Gazette your first big “break” in the industry?

I certainly had some very good early lessons in writing at the hands of Tom Vartabedian. I would be stumped for things to write about, and he would say, People want to read about the inside of your life, so tell them about your life.

Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas.

Education: Graduated Central Catholic in 1986; graduated Williams College in 1990; finished a master’s in linguistics in 1996 and a doctorate in English in 2000, both from the University of Texas at Austin.

Family? I’ve been married for 10 months; no kids. My parents live in western Massachusetts.

Siblings? A sister, Amy-Simone, who lives in Massachusetts, and a brother, James, who lives in New Hampshire.

Pets? A dog, Levee May, and a cat, Very Lee. I would love to have chickens.

Hobbies: Carpentry, hiking, reading, hunting for wild food.

What do you like most about your job? As a journalist, I get to talk to fascinating people and travel.

What do you like least? The ratio of time spent pitching articles to writing them is too high.

What do you hope to accomplish? I’d like to see more of the world and raise a family while doing work that I love and that makes a difference. I’d like to write more books, continue to do magazine work, and maybe teach someday.

Why did you choose your career path? Back in 2000, I could have pursued a job as a professor, but I wanted more control over my work and lifestyle. I had never really, truly made a commitment to become a working writer. I knew I was at a crossroads I’d never see again. It’s very rare for people to hit those moments in life so mindfully. It was as if everything were happening in slow motion. Once I saw everything unfolding, the decision was very easy to make.

Best thing about Haverhill: Andre Dubus.

Proudest accomplishment: I have to say, my book “Um ...” is my proudest accomplishment.

Type of entertainment preferred: Watching my wife make funny faces.

Favorite entertainer: Sascha Baron Cohen (aka Borat).

Favorite TV show: “The Sopranos.”

Favorite film: “Spirited Away.”

Kind of music: Drone rock: Sigur Ros, Stars of the Lid, also anything by The Hold Steady.

Favorite song: “Citrus,” by the Hold Steady.

Favorite magazine: Proper Gander, a comics zine from San Marcos, Texas.

Favorite book: “Son of the Morning Star,” by Evan Connell.

Favorite quote: “You’re pretty good with words, but words won’t save your life.”

Pet peeve: Rude drivers.

Your tombstone should read: See favorite quote above.

If you could be anyone else: The chairman of the Federal Reserve. He appears to have a lot of people hanging on his every word.

Which person, living or dead, would you want to join for dinner and why? I’d really like to talk one-on-one with George W. Bush and ask him what he makes of all the interest into how he speaks.

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