Sunday, June 22, 2008

Real insight from Safire

No, no, I'm not kidding: Safire's doing his summer book column this week, under this title and utterly apt subtitle:
Presents of Mind:
Summer reading for the word-wary
Brilliant. That precisely gets at his actually audience: He's not aiming for people who know about language, are interested in learning about language, playing with language, understanding how language works, using the creative power of language in engaging ways. He's aiming for readers who are word-wary. And I'm taking wary in its full M-W meaning here:
marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness especially in detecting and escaping danger.
Be afraid, people, be very, very afraid. First you say was when you shoulda said were and next thing you know, you find you can only speak Democrat and civilization lies in ruin.

What more can I say? Oh, this: The subtitle is missing in the online version of the piece. (And yes, the online version usually keeps the subtitle.) Maybe somebody at the Times is starting to piece things together?

But let's end on an even happier note: readers seeking actual information about usage can, as usual, turn to Jan Freeman's columns in the Boston Globe, like today's on whether/if.

Image from this blog.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this should be an Ask The Verb question, but why didn't you tackle Saletan's scathing review of George Lakoff's latest book? That's got some meat to it, really hammers Lakoff for the sloppy 'cognitive science' he writes these days.

Mr. Verb said...

Well, I guess I've had enough of linguistics wars for the moment. Saletan gets a lot right, it looks like, and I think many linguists have long felt frustrations of similar sorts -- that Lakoff makes tons of interesting and important observations, but he ends up packaging stuff in ways that drive many linguists mad.