William Safire: Root of Evil Attributive Noun

Posted by admin on Monday, March 18, 2013

William Safire Money Quote on the origins of the phrase “money quote” as discussed in 2005 in the New York Times Magazine. William Safire said:
The love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, but what is the root of money as an attributive noun? Quote

“The love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, but what is the root of money as an attributive noun?” — William Safire


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In this quote, American journalist and author William Safire seems to be pondering the origins and meaning of using “money” as an attributive noun, which means using it before another noun to describe something related to money (e.g. “money quote”, “money maker”, etc.). The phrase “money quote” is believed to have been coined by Safire (Reference his book Safire’s Political Dictionary).

A “money quote” refers to a short excerpt or highlight from a longer statement or text that is particularly memorable, impactful, or sums up the overall sentiment in a concise way. It became a commonly used term in journalism to refer to the most newsworthy or attention-grabbing part of an interview or article.

By asking “what is the root of money as an attributive noun?”, Safire appears to be questioning where the practice of combining “money” with other nouns to form new phrases came from. He may have been curious about the first usages of “money” in this grammatical function and how it became so commonly used in business, media and other fields.

An article in the Columbia Journalism Review from 2000 cites Safire’s political lexicon book “Safire’s Political Dictionary” as the original source of the term: In the book, Safire defines a money quote as “A short excerpt from a speech, article or interview that catches the essence and is suitable for reprinting in ads or secondary stories.”

Overall, the quote suggests Safire was a thoughtful observer and student of language who liked to analyze the roots and evolving uses of words.

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