Let A Simile Be Your Umbrella
Crown, 2001 (2001)
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Reviewed by David Pitt
'm not sure which I like better, Safire's
columns (he's been writing them for more than 20 years now) or the letters that follow them in these collections. I mean, the columns are great: snappy, usually a tad funny, sometimes grumpy, always nitpicky, little linguistic gems. But some of the more interesting speculation about word derivation and meaning comes from Safire's numerous correspondents; for example '
the cheese fell off his cracker a long time ago
,' as a way to describe someone who's a little crazy, comes not from Safire, but from a letter-writer.
n its variety of subjects, this
collection is just as good as its predecessors. From '
' (is it a gender-specific word?) to '
' (another word for '
'), these little ditties introduce us to new words, show us new meanings to familiar words, sort out some confusion and cause some new confusion. (It is, of course, a couple of letter-writers who point out that '
' is not the accepted spelling; it's '
,' and it comes from '
,' not from a shortening of '
' See what I mean?)
he upshot is, if you enjoy Safire's syndicated column, and the books spun off it, you'll have a good time with this one. If you're not a fan ... well, stay away.
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