No Uncertain Terms: More Writing from the Popular "On Language" Column in The New York Times Magazine

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Simon and Schuster, May 14, 2003 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 384 pages
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There is no wittier, more amiable or more astute word maven than Pulitzer Prize­winning columnist William Safire.
For many people, the first item on the agenda for Sunday morning is to sit down and read Safire's "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine, then to compose a "Gotcha" letter to the Times. Each of his books on language is a classic, to be read, re-read and fought over. Safire is the beloved, slightly crotchety guru of contemporary vocabulary, speech, language, usage and writing, as close as we are likely to get to a modern Samuel Johnson. Fans, critics and fellow language mavens eagerly await his books on language. This one is no exception.
William Safire has written the weekly New York Times Magazine column "On Language" since 1979. His observations on grammar, usage and etymology have led to the publication of fourteen "word books" and have made him the most widely read writer on the English language today. The subjects for his columns come from his insights into the current political scene, as well as from technology, entertainment and life in general. Known for his delight in catching people (especially politicians) who misuse words, he is not above tackling his own linguistic gaffes. Safire examines and comments on language trends and traces the origins of everyday words, phrases and clichés to their source. Scholarly, entertaining, lively and thoughtful, Safire's pointed commentaries on popular language and culture are at once provocative and enlightening.
Want the 411 on what's phat and what's skeevy? Here's the "straight dope" on everything from "fast-track legislation" to "the Full Monty," with deft and well-directed potshots at those who criticize, twist the usage of or misunderstand the meaning of such classic examples of American idiom as "grow'd like Topsy," "and the horse you rode in on," "drop a dime" (on someone), "go figure" and hundreds more, together with sharp, witty and passionately opinionated letters from both ordinary readers and equally irate or puzzled celebrities who have been unable to resist picking up a pen to put Mr. Safire in his place or to offer detailed criticism, additional examples or amusing anecdotes.
No Uncertain Terms is a boisterous and brilliant look at the oddities and foibles of our language. Not only "a blast and a half," but wise, clever and illuminating, it is a book that Mencken would have loved and that should be on the desk (or at the bedside) of everyone who shares Mr. Safire's profound love of the English language and his penchant for asking, "Where does that come from?"
This new collection is a joy that will spark the interest of language lovers everywhere.
 

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No uncertain terms: more writing from the popular "On language" column in the New York times magazine

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This new volume of Safire's collected columns is admirable for two reasons. First, it treats those of us without daily access to the New York Times to his particular wit about usage and grammar ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
5
Section 3
21
Section 4
26
Section 5
40
Section 6
49
Section 7
50
Section 8
51
Section 18
171
Section 19
174
Section 20
175
Section 21
180
Section 22
198
Section 23
220
Section 24
237
Section 25
254

Section 9
53
Section 10
54
Section 11
63
Section 12
78
Section 13
100
Section 14
119
Section 15
140
Section 16
144
Section 17
160
Section 26
269
Section 27
293
Section 28
295
Section 29
313
Section 30
315
Section 31
316
Section 32
329
Section 33
347
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

William Safire was born on Dec. 17, 1929. He attended Syracuse University, but dropped out after two years. He began his career as a reporter for The New York Herald Tribune. He had also been a radio and television producer and a U.S. Army correspondent. From 1955 to 1960, Safire was vice president of a public relations firm in New York City, and then became president of his own firm. He was responsible for bringing Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev together in 1959. In 1968, he joined the campaign of Richard Nixon as a senior White House speechwriter for Nixon. Safire joined The New York Times in 1973 as a political columnist. He also writes a Sunday column, On Language, which has appeared in The New York Times Magazine since 1979. This column on grammar, usage, and etymology has led to the publication of 10 books and made him the most widely read writer on the English language. William Safire was the winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. He is a trustee for Syracuse University. Since 1995 he has served as a member of the Pulitzer Board. He is the author of Freedom (1987), a novel of Lincoln and the Civil War. His other novels include Full Disclosure (1977), Sleeper Spy (1995) and Scandalmonger (2000). His other titles include a dictionary, a history, anthologies and commentaries.

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