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On Language

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  149 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
William Safire is the most widely read writer on language in America. In his witty way, Mr. Safire enlightens us concerning proper usage, correct pronunciation, the roots of our daily discourse, and the vacuous vogue lingo in which "subsume" is co-opting "co-opt," wood-burning stoves become "energy systems," and stores that sell eyeglasses squint out at us as "vision cente ...more
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published December 1st 1980 by Times Books (first published 1980)
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May 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I bought this at a "Friends of the Library" book sale while on vacation. It was a nice way to "extend" my vacation once I came home, since I think of that location while I'm reading it. Not that the book has anything at all to do with that location, it's just linked in my own head.

So the book itself, severed from the association with my vacation, is okay. (Damning with faint praise, I know.) I really enjoyed it for about the first 1/3, was amused by the second 1/3, and felt like I was slogging t
Benjamin Elliott
Mar 31, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I had picked it up for free, but after reading the first 10 columns or so I decided that it wasn't worth the time it would take to wade through it. It seems to try to be threading the needle between explaining common usage and holding up a standard to feel proud (snobbish) about, but it doesn't always hit the mark, and the included responses from readers were mostly attrocious. Additionally, the fact that it dates from the Reagan era means most of the "current-usage" or slang topics have all fad ...more
Carla Remy
I couldn't read this because a) it was so yellow-paged and gross and b) it's hardly a book made for reading straight though, just excerpts of his column. Interesting, though, what I did read: the state of our english language's evolution in 1980. But does it really matter whether we say "it is clear" or "clearly," and isn't it pretty pointless of me to find this interesting? And shouldn't I stop buying nasty old disintegrating books at the Goodwill then giving them back?
John Jr.
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: language, nonfiction
Clarity and precision aren't the only things that matter, but they do matter, especially in journalism: that's essentially the position from which Safire wrote these columns, and it's a position I share, so this book is a friend of mine.
Mar 25, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love words, this is a fantastic collection....Pick a page, any page....
Severine Wolfe
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my second copy of this book. I'd lost my copy I'd first gotten in 1981 in a move. You cannot write without some of the insights in this book. It is the style book in my opinion.
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it
A collection of Safire's newspaper columns in which he discusses the proper use of language. Fun to just browse through.
Donna Davis
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"One nation, and a vegetable?" "Through the night with the light from a bulb?" I never knew that a commie like me could find a conservative pundit so charming...yet, there it is.
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William Lewis Safire was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter.

He was perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times and a regular contributor to "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine, a column on popular etymology, new or unusual usages, and other language-related topics.
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