NY Times columnist William Safire dead at 79

NEW YORK (Reuters) – William Safire, the former  speechwriter for Richard Nixon who won a Pulitzer Prize writing  columns on politics and language for The New York Times, died  yesterday, the newspaper said. He was 79.

Safire died at a hospice in Rockville, Maryland, after  suffering from pancreatic cancer, spokeswoman Diane McNulty  said.

Safire, known for his conservative voice on The Times’  mostly liberal opinion pages, received a Pulitzer for  commentary in 1978. In 1979 he began writing the newspaper’s ‘On  Language’ column, in which he examined the origins of words and  phrases and their proper usage.
He served for a decade on the board that awards the  Pulitzer, and retired from his twice-weekly political column in  2005.

Safire’s last column for the newspaper appeared just two  weeks ago.
Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr said in a statement  that Safire would be greatly missed.
“For decades, Bill’s columns on The Times’s Op-Ed Page and  in our Sunday Magazine delighted our readers with his  insightful political commentary, his thoughtful analysis of our  national discourse and, of course, his wonderful sermons on the  use and abuse of language,” he said.

Before joining The Times in 1973, Safire worked in  politically oriented public relations and joined the Nixon  White House speechwriting team in 1968.

He was credited with coining the phrases “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” used  by then-Vice President Spiro Agnew to describe the US media.
Safire was married and had two children.

He wrote several novels including the bestseller Full  Disclosure, as well as several nonfiction books on politics  and language.

A New York City native, he was popular even with readers  who took issue with his conservative political views in part  because he enthusiastically engaged them and solicited  contributions and input on the origins and foibles of modern  language.

His last On Language column appeared two weeks ago.  Entitled “Bending the curve,” it explored the history and  popularity of that phrase.

He ended the piece with a quote from a reader who had  written to thank him for a recent column’s citation, which the  reader said had refreshed “the halcyon days of my youth.”

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