On The Death Of The Great William Safire

Sep 28, 2009

One of Readable Web’s heroes, language maven William Safire, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 79.

Safire was best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for the New York Times. But his deepest passion, and an endless source of delight to both Safire and his readers, was the English language. His weekly column “On Language”, first appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 1981.

Safire will live on as an inspiration here at RW, channeled in posts like Read An E-Book On An E-Reader With E-Ink On E-Paper, Today! and Fonts Yes, Foundries No.
And so, this feeble but heartfelt eulogy:

Bill, I hope it was a comfort knowing that all the “lexicographic irregulars” you left behind would step up. But we can only step up, and not into, your shoes. You were much too good and too self-styled for such a thing.
Here at Readable Web, I’ll be on the lookout for changes in language brought on by the movement of language from print to the networked screen. I’m just another web yenta, but I’ll do my best.
New behaviors, devices, and concepts bring new words and phrases. New words and phrases bring new behaviors, devices, and concepts. I’ll try to keep track of it, share it, and revel in it, as you always did.
Goodbye, and thanks.

William Safire At Work, 1984

William Safire at work.
No technophobe, the surrounding technology was, for 1984, state of the art.

The last “On Language” column written by William Safire was published on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, only fifteen days before his death. As always, it was filled with keen observations and wily wordplay.

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