Safire's Political Dictionary

Overview


When it comes to the vagaries of language in American politics, its uses and abuses, its absurdities and ever-shifting nuances, its power to confound, obscure, and occasionally to inspire, William Safire is the language maven we most readily turn to for clarity, guidance, and penetrating, sometimes lacerating, wit.
Safire's Political Dictionary is a stem-to-stern updating and expansion of the Language of Politics, which was first published in 1968 and last revised in 1993, long...
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Overview


When it comes to the vagaries of language in American politics, its uses and abuses, its absurdities and ever-shifting nuances, its power to confound, obscure, and occasionally to inspire, William Safire is the language maven we most readily turn to for clarity, guidance, and penetrating, sometimes lacerating, wit.
Safire's Political Dictionary is a stem-to-stern updating and expansion of the Language of Politics, which was first published in 1968 and last revised in 1993, long before such terms as Hanging Chads, 9/11 and the War on Terror became part of our everyday vocabulary. Nearly every entry in that renowned work has been revised and updated and scores of completely new entries have been added to produce an indispensable guide to the political language being used and abused in America today.
Safire's definitions--discursive, historically aware, and often anecdotal--bring a savvy perspective to our colorful political lingo. Indeed, a Safire definition often reads like a mini-essay in political history, and readers will come away not only with a fuller understanding of particular words but also a richer knowledge of how politics works, and fails to work, in America. From Axis of Evil, Blame Game, Bridge to Nowhere, Triangulation, and Compassionate Conservatism to Islamofascism, Netroots, Earmark, Wingnuts and Moonbats, Slam Dunk, Doughnut Hole, and many others, this language maven explains the origin of each term, how and by whom and for what purposes it has been used or twisted, as well as its perceived and real significance.
For anyone who wants to cut through the verbal haze that surrounds so much of American political discourse, Safire's Political Dictionary offers a work of scholarship, wit, insiderhood and resolute bipartisanship.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Safire, now 78 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner in 2006, describes this dictionary as a lifelong work-it was first published 40 years ago. A self-described "libertarian conservative" who was a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, Safire has labored diligently to create a bipartisan work covering the language of politics. Because it deals with the "specialized world of words," the book is neither a standard dictionary of government nor a traditional source for definitions of political science terminology; works like David Robertson's A Dictionary of Modern Politics(Routledge, 2007) or Jack C. Plano and Milton Greenberg's The American Political Dictionary(Harcourt, 2002; 11th ed.) are better suited to those roles. Entries in this fifth edition cover such phrases as Reagan's "evil empire," George W. Bush's "axis of evil," and Bill Clinton's "what the meaning of 'is' is." Also covered are "depth polling," "nattering nabobs of negativism," "policy wonk," "scorched earth," and "thought police." The WorldCat record for the fourth edition (published in 1993) indicates 1,359 library holdings, representing a diverse group of public and academic sites. This record represents a strong vote of confidence for the work of a writer who has established a national reputation through political columns appearing in hundreds of newspapers.
—Graham R. Walden

From the Publisher
"Compiles political terminology definitions that are discursive, historical and entertaining."—Publishers Weekly

"What began in 1968 as a Beltway junkie's labor of love has turned into an authoritative collection of whistle-stopping campaign slogans and vicious slings and arrows of partisan attacks that stretches all the way back to the Founding Fathers (who came up with terms like "electioneer" and the party "ticket"). Last updated in 1993, before the U.S. political lexicon had acquired "soccer moms" (1996), "fuzzy math" (2000) and "Swift Boat spot" (2004), the book's newest version includes rich linguistic bequeathals from both the Clinton and second Bush White Houses."—Newsweek

"Safire provides the reader with an insider's understanding and language fluency without compare. This true labor of love is highly recommended for all collections."—Library Journal

"With an expansion to almost 1,800 terms appearing in approximately 1,400 entries, whose meanings and origins the author assiduously teased out from political participants, writers, search engines, and corresponding readers of his column from all points of view (whom he calls the "Gotcha! Gang"), Safire's unrivaled dictionary continues to be a lexicographer's and an etymologist's delight. It is an easily accessible introduction to political culture over more than two centuries...Essential. "—CHOICE

"A joy to read, whether one is a knee-jerk liberal or throws in his lot with the dinosaur wing."—St. Petersburg Times

"Safire combines elegance with erudition in this incisive and colorful guide to the language of politics and commentary on the political landscape...this work is highly recommended to all public libraries, academic libraries, and school libraries and in fact to political junkies and lover of the English language."—American Reference Books Annual

"Venerable reference."—The New Leader

"William Safire's Language and Politics has long been used as a source of definitions for insider words and phrases commonly used in politics. Updated and expanded for the first time since 1993, Safire renames the book and adds items like "war on terror," "chad" and "axis of evil" to the collection. Containing not only words' definitions, but also their history, Safire explains each entry in an informative, witty and easy-to-read way."—Campaigns & Elections

"Safire gives us straightforward definitions and fascinating etymologies for the common and uncommon political terms of American history...Clearly Safire's Political Dictionary has many uses, and not just as a tool for looking up "moonbat" and "dead cat bounce." It provides definitions, etymologies, and examples of usage for any political word or phrase in the American vocabulary, and always with a dash of class and humor."—First Things

"Safire's definitions—discursive, historically aware, and often anecdotal—bring a savvy perspective to our colorful political lingo. Indeed, a Safire definition often reads like a mini-essay in political history, and readers will come away not only with a fuller understanding of particular words but also a richer knowledge of how politics works, and fails to work, in America...For anyone who wants to cut through the verbal haze that surrounds so much of American political discourse, Safire's Political Dictionary offers a work of scholarship, wit, insiderhood and resolute bipartisanship."—Dictionary.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345283931
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/1980

Meet the Author

William Safire began his writing career as a speechwriter in the Nixon Administration, became a columnist with the New York Times—as its resident token conservative—and has for many years written a weekly "On Language" column in the New York Times magazine. His many books include Lend Me Your Ears, How Not to Write, Scandalmonger, and Wit and Wisdom. He lives in New York City.

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