Book Review. Watching My Language, by William Safire.

William Safire writes a column for the New York Times on language. This is a collection of them.

The main thing that I’m taking away from this book is the idea that grammar isn’t fixed, constant, or even consistent from expert to expert. Yes, it’s possible to be picky about your grammar, but once you get so deep into it, you start finding inconsistencies, arguements, etc.

For example, what is “fall over” as in “The tree fell over”? Over isn’t a preposition; the tree didn’t fall over anything. The column on the subject rambled on for about a thousand words; following were about six thousand words of readers’ letters. None of them agreed on what it was.

–Another funny-odd thing: He could give citations for “the Beltway crowd,” tracing what year it had first been used, when it started moving into (more) common usage, and so on, but he didn’t know what “in the moment” meant–Alan Alda had to write in to tell him what it meant and assure him that it was a common phrase used in California.

Anyway. Good book. He’s a good, entertaining writer. He prints readers’ letters, so you can see 1) just how wrong he is, and 2) just how easy it is to mistake error for opinon.