Columnist and Word Nerd William Safire Dead at 79S


The New York Times is reporting in a breaking news alert that its former columnist, Nixon speechwriter and vocabulary czar William Safire has died at age 79 of pancreatic cancer.

Safire, a former advertising executive teamed up with Richard Nixon after the then Vice President engaged in what became known as the "kitchen debate" with Soviet Premiere Nikita Khruschev in a model home built by a Safire client. The famed photograph of the scuffle was shot by Safire himself.

Safire served on Nixon's 1960 campaign and later on the White House staff where he was noted for having crafted Spiro Agnew's celebrated catch-phrase attacking the media, labeling the press "nattering nabobs of negativism"; a slur which has yet to be topped in catchiness to this day.

After leaving the White House he became the New York Times' token conservative columnist, a slot he occupied until 2005. He also wrote the weekly "On Language" column, obsessed with tracing the origins of contemporary usages, as well as several books on the mother tongue.

With the death of Irving Kristol, Safire makes the second Big in the 70's, conservative columnist to pass away in recent weeks.