From Publishers Weekly
Safire has published more than a dozen, often bestselling, collections (No Uncertain Terms
, etc.) of his acerbic weekly columns on the English language. In his crisply witty commentaries, he does more than elucidate the origins of slang or correct common grammatical mistakes: he alerts readers to the rhetorical maneuvers of our politicians and public figures as only a former speechwriter can. Bush's phrase "Leave no child behind," the atomic origins of "ground zero," the difference between "antiterrorism" and "counterterrorism," and Tony Blair's diplomatic use of a moveable modifier in an Israeli speech all occasion the use of Safire's talent for analyzing the speech of our decision makers. His gift for plucking examples of more general shifts in word usage from the most obscure news reports and for picking up on debates surrounding word use is unmatched. Several of his columns cross-examine Supreme Court wording, and this volume includes entertainingly vigilant ripostes to Safire from Justice Antonin Scalia. Safire is adept at rooting out literary influences and half-remembered poetic allusions, tracking the appearances of, for example, Lewis Carroll's delightful verb "galumph." Unfortunately, Safire's command of foreign languages is less than reliable, as he records Jacques Barzun and others pointing out. And he can veer into chauvinism (for instance, calling for the world to adopt American-style layout for the day's date). Yet the investigations gathered here, each in an unfailingly droll tone, will instruct and delight all readers who share Safire's love of language and its endless permutations.
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Pulitzer Prize winner Safire is a prolific writer (with a total of 25 titles to his credit), and his latest book is his eighth one on language--no surprise there, since he has become one of the leading experts on proper usage. His home base is the New York Times Magazine
, where he writes the weekly "On Language" column. This new compilation of recent columns demonstrates in both erudite and witty terms why so many readers fondly turn to him for edifying discussions about how English is currently being spoken and written--and, as he so often finds, not in the correct manner. His analyses of colloquialisms, Americanisms, brand-new meanings, and connotations of the hour are based on the way people express themselves, ranging from what politicians say to how television personalities talk to the ways just plain old you and I converse. There is a lot to think about here for the language lover, for there is much subtlety in Safire's examinations of word usage; for instance, one could be up all night reading and pondering his discussion of the difference between seasonable
. But, inarguably, there are certainly worse reasons to be up all night. Sure to be popular where his previous books on language have been requested. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved