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William Safire's Quotes

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Born: 1929-12-17
Profession: Author
Nation: American
Biography of William Safire

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Stop worrying about the 'dumbing down' of our language by bloggers, tweeters, cableheads and MSM thumbsuckers engaged in a 'race to the bottom' of the page by little minds confined to little words.

Tags: Language, Minds, Words

The noun phrase straw man, now used as a compound adjective as in 'straw-man device, technique or issue,' was popularized in American culture by 'The Wizard of Oz.'

Tags: American, Culture, Used

Today, war of necessity is used by critics of military action to describe unavoidable response to an attack like that on Pearl Harbor that led to our prompt, official declaration of war, while they characterize as unwise wars of choice the wars in Korea, Vietnam and the current war in Iraq.

Tags: Choice, Today, War

What do you call a co-worker these days? Neither teammate nor confederate will do, and partner is too legalistic. The answer brought from academia to the political world by Henry Kissinger and now bandied in the boardroom is colleague. It has a nice upper-egalitarian feel, related to the good fellowship of collegial.

Tags: Good, Nice, Political

When infuriated by an outrageous column, do not be suckered into responding with an abusive e-mail. Pundits so targeted thumb through these red-faced electronic missives with delight, saying 'Hah! Got to 'em.'

Tags: Delight, Electronic, Saying

Never assume the obvious is true.

Tags: Assume, Obvious, True

When I need to know the meaning of a word, I look it up in a dictionary.

Tags: Dictionary, Meaning, Word

The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.

Tags: Mean

If you re-read your work, you can find on re-reading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing.

Tags: Deal, Great, Work

To be accused of 'channeling' is to be dismissed as a ventriloquist's live dummy, derogated at not having a mind of one's own.

Tags: Accused, Dismissed, Mind

I think we all have a need to know what we do not need to know.

Tags: Book, Dealing, Subject

A reader ought to be able to hold it and become familiar with its organized contents and make it a mind's manageable companion.

Tags: Able, Become, Mind

At a certain point, what people mean when they use a word becomes its meaning.

Tags: Mean, Point, Word

Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day.

Tags: Decision, Hard, Write

Have a definite opinion.

Tags: Definite, Opinion

I welcome new words, or old words used in new ways, provided the result is more precision, added color or greater expressiveness.

Tags: Old, Used, Words

I'm a right-wing pundit and have been for many years.

Tags: Willing

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care.

Tags: Care, Ignorance, Speech

Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.

Tags: Knowing, Source, Work

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

Tags: Avoid, Cliches, Last

One challenge to the arts in America is the need to make the arts, especially the classic masterpieces, accessible and relevant to today's audience.

Tags: America, Challenge, Today

Previously known for its six syllables of sweetness and light, reconciliation has become the political fighting word of the year.

Tags: Fighting, Light, Political

The wonderful thing about being a New York Times columnist is that it's like a Supreme Court appointment - they're stuck with you for a long time.

Tags: Time, Times, Wonderful

When articulation is impossible, gesticulation comes to the rescue.

Tags: Impossible, Rescue

Writers who used to show off their erudition no longer sing in the bare ruined choir of the media.

Tags: Off, Show, Used

Do not be taken in by 'insiderisms.' Fledgling columnists, eager to impress readers with their grasp of journalistic jargon, are drawn to such arcane spellings as 'lede.' Where they lede, do not follow.

Tags: Follow, Impress, Taken
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Never look for the story in the 'lede.' Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.

Tags: Put, Story, Time

Sometimes I know the meaning of a word but am tired of it and feel the need for an unfamiliar, especially precise or poetic term, perhaps one with a nuance that flatters my readership's exquisite sensitivity.

Tags: Sometimes, Tired, Word
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