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William Safire

The return of the bloviator

The return of the bloviator

As Donald Trump surges, so does "bloviate." "The bloviating billionaire" — it's clearly an alliteration whose time has come. But there's hardly a candidate or commentator who hasn't been labeled with the word. Thirty years ago it was dated slang; now it's seen as the prevailing vice of our public discourse.

"Bloviate" has risen and fallen in American life. It was coined in the 1840s from "blow," a facetious pseudo-Latinism mocking the inflated oratory of an era when, as Tocqueville observed, Americans couldn't take to the stump without "venting their pomposity from one end of a harangue to the other."

That bloated style had its...

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