cover image Coming to Terms

Coming to Terms

William Safire. Doubleday Books, $25 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-385-41300-8

In this seventh collection of his playful, witty, instructive ``On Language'' syndicated columns, Safire again reprints letters from members of the Gotcha Gang and the Nitpickers' League, and other readers who have their own two cents to add. Among his concerns in this batch, Safire explains why he hasn't used the phrase gilding the lily for 40 years (``Eschew certitude,'' he warns in this connection). He comments on the trend toward mispronunciation, giving ek-setera and reckonize as examples; looks into the origins of such words as bimbo and roundheels ; examines such euphemisms for lover as significant other , special friend and main squeeze ; pays tribute to Yogi Berra's mastery of the ``bonaprop''; and reports what happened when the management of a San Francisco hotel adopted Safire's recommendation of putting a dictionary in every room. For those who care about language, or who just want to have fun, Safire delivers. (June)