Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

William F. Buckley Jr.’s Sesquipedality

(Roman Genn)
With a quiz for the reader

The founder of this magazine, the redoubtable William F. Buckley Jr., had an instantly recognizable trademark: hard words. He was comfortable saying, on his television show Firing Line, that some people sought to “immanentize the eschaton.” When I was a teenager trying to build my own vocabulary, I watched every episode and read every Buckley newspaper column just to discover what words I might learn next. These invariably went into my enormous vocabulary notebook. 

Immanentizing the eschaton? It means trying to create a heaven on earth. 

Buckley was unapologetic about his lexiphanicism — as if his audience consisted only of the cognoscenti

This article appears as “WFB’s Sesquipedality” in the December 17, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Bryan A. Garner — Mr. Garner is the author of The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, Garner’s Modern English Usage, and The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

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