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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Safire's Language

In homage to William Safire (1929-2009), who passed away last weekend:


I was 10 or 11 years old, and the Sunday Times was my consistently open window to the world's news and debates. Being too young during his Nixon years, I was first exposed to Safire through his weekly Sunday Magazine "On Language" column in the late '70s.

The word play and the attention to the fine details and idiosyncracies of language caught my attention and became a weekly dose of fun with words. His column was singularly responsible for sparking my interest in etymology and the process behind how meanings of words evolve beyond their derivations, through popular usage and circumstance.

Maureen Dowd does a very good job, in an uncharacteristically somber tone, in her Op-Ed column today -- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/opinion/30dowd.html, conveying her personal relationship with and respect for Safire. While I never had the opportunity to meet the man, and I disagreed more often than not with his political positions, I am thankful for the lasting impact he made on my appreciation of words and language. A quality and value I hope to pass along to my children, and to others, through writings and conversation.

George Cigale
*picture by George Tames/The New York Times

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