Friday, 1 February 2008

William Safire

On December 17, 1929, William Safire was born in New York City. After working as a speechwriter and public relations staffer for Richard Nixon, he became a Washington-based columnist for the New York Times (in 1978, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his political commentary). In the 1980s, he became "America's Language Maven" with his weekly "On Language" column in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. On the subject of political commentary, he once found a clever chiastic way of saying that he'd rather be seen as a dirty fighter than a rigid ideologue:

  • "Better to be a jerk that knees than a knee that jerks."

He also demonstrated a penchant for oxymoronic wit, writing:

  • "I think we all have a need to know what we do not need to know."
  • "If I’ve told you once,  I’ve told you a thousand times: resist hyperbole."

He also offered two very neat metaphorical observations:

  • "English is a stretch language; one size fits all."
  • "A dependent clause is like a dependent child: incapable of standing on its own but able to cause a lot of trouble."

from Dr. Mardy's at

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