William F. Buckley: ‘A Repristinated Vision’


Newspapers today are awash with obituaries and tributes to conservative icon William F. Buckley, who died yesterday at 82 while working on his daily column at home.

No one, regardless of political leanings, could ever accuse Buckley of abusing the English language.  In fact, he usually elevated it.

Buckley was quoted in a Wall Street Journal editorial today as recently having called for "a repristinated vision" for the conservative movement.

Frankly, I had never heard or read that word before, but its root is the noun pristine, so Buckley was issuing a call to restore the original vision of the conservative movement.

Let me add my nearly inconsequential tribute to the man who showed us all that there is life after FDR and liberal socialism.

Categories: Grammar Sucks


2 Replies to “William F. Buckley: ‘A Repristinated Vision’”

  1. I stumbled on this site while looking for the original Latin meanings. The word is not in my American Heritage or Random House College dictionaries and the two online dictionaries I looked at provided the original Latin, but did not provide a good root or explain the meaning of what root source they provided.

    I write at the speed of someone in a dinghy in calm waters, with no wind nor current, and only my hands dipped in the water to propel the boat. Mr. Buckley sped along with the force of a far more agile mind, reportedly writing a National Review column in 20 minutes. I once wrote a late-breaking report for a newspaper, with perhaps 600 to 700 words, in 15 minutes, which is fairly close to Mr. Buckley’s usual speed: 50 books! Columns! Speeches! Family! Sailboat crossings of the Atlantic! He was our era’s Lord Action, a 19th-century liberal, which is what many, though not all, conservatives are, in part thanks to Mr. Buckley.

    As to grammar, well, I have long files of newspaper misspellings, now rarer, thanks to spell checkers and my own diminishing interest in reading reports I cannot trust to be true and which I know are decidedly partisan. I also have a list of grammatical errors. Too many reporters don’t understand the use of comparatives and superlatives. One reads too often of the eldest of two children. “to backup Jon Kima” and numerous similar confusions–one won’t find the verb backup in the dictionary, but one might find a noun, “backup,” and many other errors.

    Worst of all may be the irrational “one of the” error. Frank Prial of The New York Times wrote, for 9 May 2003, ”one of the legion of chardonnay fans who has fled.” “Legion” means that many fans had fled, so he should have written, “fans who have fled.” I have often seen that error, with one taken as the antecedent, which it obviously is not. I have no idea why it occurs. Perhaps someone claimed that a noun following “of” cannot be an antecedent. I wish I knew how so obvious an error has manifested.

    This is most speculative, but one does get the impression that many people go through government schools without ever having been taught grammar as such and certainly no teacher never having stressed the importance of following certain rules of grammar. Perhaps that derives from a pedagogical approach informed by a contemporary school of thought and action that spurns precedent and conformance to rules while permitting a riot of individual expression that conforms to few, if any, established rules. I do not know, since to me liberty is the liberty to do what one ought to do, and one ought to live according to certain rules of behavior, action, and modes of expression. One can create new bridges, with original designs, but one cannot escape certain rules that ensure that the bridges will do what they ought to do, with safety for their users. One cannot communicate or think effectively if one has no idea what words mean. Two guys, writing in a political site on the Internet, politico.com, called a recent New York Times article “a salacious story.” It was evident that neither understood what “salacious” meant.


  2. They definitely didn’t understand “salacious” if they’re referring to the infamous McCain article. Anyway, as for your comments about education, I actually studied education and schools of education today teach against what they label “drill and kill”–no memorization drills, no fill-in-the-blank drills, no drills period–and if you don’t drill on language and grammar, you won’t be able to teach it. Another observation (I also worked for a teachers’ union for several years) is that many of the people teaching English don’t themselves know grammar rules. Instead, they rely on old bromides like “never start a sentence with because” (huh?) and “whenever you pause, you must use a comma.”

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