William Safire

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Dec 17 00:49:44 UTC 2000

    My contact with William Safire and his assistants has been limited
but always cordial. They no doubt make oversights or other mistakes
in their columns, but even the greatest scholars make mistakes. Barry
Popik already has a long string of accomplishments to his record and
is probably well on his way to becoming one of the most significant
contributors to English word-studies. Barry does not need William
Safire to validate his achievements or those of other ADS members.
     Those achievements stand on their own, and that realization
should be liberating. Barry has many avenues to make his views known,
and there is no need to get hung up on the silent treatment he is
getting from the NY Times. With the best of will I ask Barry to "cool
it" with respect to the Times and enjoy the publicity that has been
coming his way (e.g. "Dear Abby" column several years ago concerning
"The Big Apple";  _NY Post_ article a while back, also on "The Big
     As for the specific mistakes that may appear in Safire's column,
the corrections can always be printed in my _Comments on Etymology_
(a series of working papers) and then formally in articles compiled
into books. I believe there's a proverb that goes something like: If
one door closes, open another.
And if the proverb doesn't exist, it should.
    Meanwhile, no discussion about William Safire's 'On Language"
column would be complete without acknowledging the considerable
publicity he has provided to  the American Dialect Society and the
work we do. Our Society owes him a debt of gratitude for this.

---Gerald Cohen

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