The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time
Wit and Wisdom from the Popular "On Language" Column in The New York Times Magazine
Safire is the guru of contemporary vocabulary, speech, language, usage and writing. Dedicated and disputatious readers itch to pick up each column and respond to the week's linguistic wisdom with a gotcha letter to the Times. The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time marks the publication of Safire's sixteenth book on language. This collection is a classic to be read, re-read, enjoyed and fought over. Fans, critics and fellow linguists wait with bated (from the French abattre "to beat down") breath for each new anthology -- and, like its predecessors, this one is bound to satisfy and delight.
Safire finds fodder for his columns in politics and current events, as well as in science, technology, entertainment and daily life. The self-proclaimed card-carrying language maven and pop grammarian is not above tackling his own linguistic blunders as he detects language trends and tracks words, phrases and clichés to their source. Scholarly, entertaining and thoughtful, Safire's critical observations about language and slanguage are at once provocative and enlightening.
Safire is America's go-to guy when it comes to language, and he has included sharp and passionately opinionated letters from readers across the English-speaking world who have been unable to resist picking up a pen to put the maven himself in his place or to offer alternate interpretations, additional examples, amusing anecdotes or just props.
The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time is a fascinating, learned and piquant look at the oddities and foibles that find their way into the English language. Exposing linguistic hooey and rigamarole and filled with Safire's trademark wisdom, this book has a place on the desk or bedside table of all who share his profound love of the English language -- as well as his penchant for asking "What does that mean?" Or, "Wassat?"
This new collection is sure to delight readers, writers and word lovers everywhere and spark the interest of anyone who has ever wondered, "Where did the phrase 'brazen hussy' come from?"
Read an Excerpt
We will come to sodomy in a moment. To stagger together through today's column about grammatical possessiveness, you and I must agree on the difference between a gerund and a participle.
Take the word dancing. It starts out as a form of a verb: "Look, Ma, I'm dancing!" When that word is used as an adjective to modify a noun -- "look at that dancing bear!" -- it's called a participle.
But when the same word is used as a noun -- "I see the bear, and its dancing isn't so hot" -- then the word is classified as a gerund. (From the Latin gerundum, rooted in gerere, "to bear, to... see more