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

Overview

For the past twenty-five years Americans have relied on Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith William Safire for their weekly dose of linguistic illumination in The New York Times Magazine's column "On Language" — one of the most popular features of the magazine and a Sunday-morning staple for innumerable fans. He is the most widely read writer on the English language today.

Safire is the guru of contemporary vocabulary, speech, language, usage and writing. Dedicated and disputatious...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (15) from $1.99   
  • New (4) from $59.99   
  • Used (11) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing 1 – 3 of 4
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$59.99
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:

(215)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$96.13
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(2512)

Condition: New
0743242440 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. ... Thank you for supporting our small, family-owned business! Read more Show Less

Ships from: ACWORTH, GA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$155.00
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:

(241)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing 1 – 3 of 4
Close
Sort by
The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time: Wit and Wisdom from the Popular

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$15.99
BN.com price
Sending request ...

Overview

For the past twenty-five years Americans have relied on Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith William Safire for their weekly dose of linguistic illumination in The New York Times Magazine's column "On Language" — one of the most popular features of the magazine and a Sunday-morning staple for innumerable fans. He is the most widely read writer on the English language today.

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 upa 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 More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Safire has published more than a dozen, often bestselling, collections (No Uncertain Terms, etc.) of his acerbic weekly columns on the English language. In his crisply witty commentaries, he does more than elucidate the origins of slang or correct common grammatical mistakes: he alerts readers to the rhetorical maneuvers of our politicians and public figures as only a former speechwriter can. Bush's phrase "Leave no child behind," the atomic origins of "ground zero," the difference between "antiterrorism" and "counterterrorism," and Tony Blair's diplomatic use of a moveable modifier in an Israeli speech all occasion the use of Safire's talent for analyzing the speech of our decision makers. His gift for plucking examples of more general shifts in word usage from the most obscure news reports and for picking up on debates surrounding word use is unmatched. Several of his columns cross-examine Supreme Court wording, and this volume includes entertainingly vigilant ripostes to Safire from Justice Antonin Scalia. Safire is adept at rooting out literary influences and half-remembered poetic allusions, tracking the appearances of, for example, Lewis Carroll's delightful verb "galumph." Unfortunately, Safire's command of foreign languages is less than reliable, as he records Jacques Barzun and others pointing out. And he can veer into chauvinism (for instance, calling for the world to adopt American-style layout for the day's date). Yet the investigations gathered here, each in an unfailingly droll tone, will instruct and delight all readers who share Safire's love of language and its endless permutations. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
More "On Language" columns for Safire's fans. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743242448
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Read an Excerpt

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
By Safire, William

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2004 Safire, William
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743242440

Introduction

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 carry," because the gerund, though a noun, seems to bear the action of a verb.)

We give the same word these different names to tell us what it's doing and what its grammatical needs are. Two great grammarians had a titanic spat in the 1920s over the use of the possessive in this sentence: "Women having the vote reduces men's political power." H. W. Fowler derided what he called "the fused participle" as "grammatically indefensible" and said it should be "Women's having"; Otto Jespersen cited famous usages, urged dropping the possessive and called Fowler a "grammatical moralizer."

Comes now Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with the latest manifestation of this struggle. An Associated Press account of his stinging dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court struck down that state's anti-sodomy law, quoted Scalia out of context as writing, "I have nothing against homosexuals," which seemed condescending. His entire sentence, though, was not: "I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means."

Note the lack of apostrophes after homosexuals and group to indicate possession; Fowler would have condemned that as a "fused participle." Such loosey-goosey usage from the conservative Scalia, of all people?

"When I composed the passage in question," the justice informs me, "I pondered for some time whether I should be perfectly grammatical and write 'I have nothing against homosexuals', or any other group's, promoting their agenda,' etc. The object of the preposition 'against,' after all, is not 'homosexuals who are promoting,' but rather 'the promoting of (in the sense of by) homosexuals.'

"I have tried to be rigorously consistent in using the possessive before the participle," Scalia notes, "when it is the action, rather than the actor, that is the object of the verb or preposition (or, for that matter, the subject of the sentence)."

But what about his passage in Lawrence, in which he failed to follow Fowler and fused the participle?

"I concluded that because of the intervening phrase 'or any other group,' writing 'homosexuals' " -- with the apostrophe indicating possession -- "(and hence 'any other group's') would violate what is perhaps the first rule of English usage: that no construction should call attention to its own grammatical correctness. Finding no other formulation that could make the point in quite the way I wanted, I decided to be ungrammatical instead of pedantic."

But his attempt to be a regular guy backfired. In a jocular tone, Scalia observes: "God -- whom I believe to be a strict grammarian as well as an Englishman -- has punished me. The misquotation would have been more difficult to engineer had there been an apostrophe after 'homosexuals.' I am convinced that in this instance the AP has been (unwittingly, I am sure) the flagellum Dei to recall me from my populist, illiterate wandering. (You will note that I did not say 'from me wandering.')"

My does beat me before that gerund wandering. Robert Burchfield, editor of the third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage, writes, "The possessive with gerund is on the retreat, but its use with proper names and personal nouns and pronouns persists in good writing."

Now let's parse Scalia's self-parsing. In his refusal to say "from me wandering," wandering is a gerund. When a personal pronoun comes in front of a gerund, the possessive form is called for: say my, not me. This avoidance of a fused participle makes sense: you say about the above-mentioned bear "I like his dancing," not "I like him dancing," because you want to stress not the bear but his action in prancing about.

In Scalia's dissent in the Texas sodomy case, promoting is a gerund, the object of the preposition against. His strict-construction alternative, using apostrophes to indicate possession -- "against homosexuals', or any other group's, promoting" -- is correct but clunky. He was right to avoid it, and is wrong to castigate himself for eschewing clunkiness.

There would have been another choice, however: put the gerund ahead of the possessors. Try this: "I have nothing against the promoting of their agenda by homosexuals, or by any other group, through normal democratic means." That would not only avoid the confusing apostrophes, but follows "I have nothing against" with its true object, the gerund promoting -- and would make it impossible for any reporter to pull out a condescending "I have nothing against homosexuals."


Regarding your proposed solution to my gerundial problem (to wit, "I have nothing against the promoting of their agenda by homosexuals, or by any other group, through normal democratic means"): It is so obvious that of course I considered it. Two problems. (1) I do not like to have a relative pronoun preceding its antecedent, as in "the promoting of their agenda by homosexuals." (2) More importantly, English remains a language in which emphasis is largely conveyed by word order, and the emphasis in my sentence was upon homosexuals' promoting, not upon (where your alternative places it) the promoting by homosexuals. Surely you can sense the difference.

Justice Antonin Scalia
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2004 by The Cobbett Corporation

(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time by Safire, William Copyright © 2004 by Safire, William. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    this book is worth reading

    great book very ingformative

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)