What do Chaucer, Mary Tyler Moore and Oprah have in common?

Does anyone remember William Safire’s Pulitzer Prize winning NYT Magazine’s column, “On Language?” No? Wikipedia to the rescue! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Safire

As a much lesser word nerd, I admire Safire’s most unusual way of looking at things and turning a phrase. I hadn’t given Mr. Safire even the tiniest of thoughts until recently. As I was flipping through the pages of Dr. Mardy Grothe’s book, Oxymoronica, a few of Safire’s oxymorons leaped off the page.

  • “Never use a long word when a diminutive one will suffice.”
  • “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole.”
  • “Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.”

Alas, Mr. Safire, aka The Language Maven, left our planet several years ago. He was remembered fondly by Ben Zimmer at   http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/remembering-the-language-maven/ .

To my delight, the New York Times has kept several of his columns accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/by/william-safire . The next time you have a few minutes to divulge your nerdy wordy side, click over and read a few columns. The article entitled, “On Aha and Senior Moments” demonstrates Safire’s highly developed stream of consciousness style. How many writers in one column could tie together Chaucer, Mary Tyler Moore, Oprah, Archimedes, The Harvard Theological Review and “Deep Throat?”

I think I’ll add some of Safire’s work to my wish list on Amazon.

Too often these days as I am reading articles online, Ambrose Bierce’s quote, “He had nothing to say and he said it,” flashes across the page. I think a little dose of Safire now and again will be just what the word doctor ordered to keep me humble. Soon I’ll click over to Amazon and see what’s available. But for now, it’s time to turn off the lights.

Happy Reading!

LK Greer

Leave a Reply