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Here comes a little witticism, you ninny…

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 21 years ago, in 2001, on the World Wide Web.

William Safire is so much better when he is in his crotchety conservative persona commenting on language than when he is in his crotchety conservative persona commenting on politics. For example, see this great invective against the use of the verbalized arch pause (er, um, ahem) to signify Here comes a little witticism, you ninny [NY Times]. People who have talked to me or read my online squibs enough should know that I myself indulge in the occasional er, um, or well. Personally, I try to restrict it to the (apparently British) usage of the pause as a way to understate or state that an answer is obvious or embarrassing. Nevertheless, I’ll be on the lookout for overuse of the Look, I made a pun! usage from here on out.

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