Another voice from my past gone: NBC's Edwin Newman, 1919-2010

NBC Television Newsman Edwin Newman

Edwin Newman was the underappreciated (they let his contact expire when he was only 65) NBC newsman who also a bulldog on language, which puts him on my side.

From the AP obit: 

He battled linguistic pretense and clutter in his best sellers Strictly Speaking and A Civil Tongue. Chapter titles of "A Civil Tongue" give an idea of his targets: "A Fatal Slaying of the Very Worst Kind," "A Real Super Player with Good Compassion," "Paradigm Lost" and "Myself Will Be Back After This Message."

"A civil tongue ... means to me a language that is not bogged down in jargon, not puffed up with false dignity, not studded with trick phrases that have lost their meaning," he wrote. "It is direct, specific, concrete, vigorous, colorful, subtle and imaginative when it should be, and as lucid and eloquent as we are able to make it. It is something to revel in and enjoy."

After retiring in January 1984, Newman enjoyed being on "Saturday Night Live" skits ... In one sketch, he mans a suicide hot line and keeps correcting the desperate caller's grammar.

Some excerpts from Strictly Speaking:

If we were more careful about what we say, and how, we might be more critical and less gullible.

Those for whom words have lost their value are likely to find that ideas have also lost their value.

A world without mistakes would unquestionably be less fun.


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