Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will Safire ever burn out?

It's been a while since I complained about William Safire's column. To keep the coals warm, over at Headsup: The Blog Fev does a fine job of reminding us of how silly it gets.

Specifically this claim by the linguist manqué:

Y’know reached its usage peak among teenagers in the 1980s, later replaced by I mean, then by like and of late by an elemental uh.

Language punditry is so far behind even the most annoying and banal sportswriting. There are standards and methods available to and expected from lexicographers and sociolinguists. The foundational standard: Make true statements. The best method: Do actual research. Why do so many journalists ignore both of these when writing about language?

As Fev writes:

Sports writers, you might have noticed, tend not to do that…and expect to be taken seriously solely on the size of their mavenhood. I expect that's because sports writers know they're fairly likely to be called out, by readers if not first by editors, should they start inventing stuff at random.

I'm not sure why I pay any attention to Safire. Probably the same reason I gently bend a sprained ankle just to make sure it still hurts.


  1. Well, what a clever closing metaphor.

  2. You pay attention to him because far too many people think he's an authority.

  3. Although I mock all the rubberneckers in front of me when caught in accident traffic, I admit that I sometimes cast a sideways glance toward the scene.

  4. I like the garden path in the title of this post....


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