The Story of Ain't

The Story of Ain't

America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published

Book - 2012
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"In 1934, Webster's Second was the great gray eminence of American dictionaries, with 600,000 entries and numerous competitors but no rivals. It served as the all-knowing guide to the world of grammar and information, a kind of one-stop reference work. In 1961, Webster's Third came along and ignited an unprecedented controversy in America's newspapers, universities, and living rooms. The new dictionary's editor, Philip Gove, had overhauled Merriam's long held authoritarian principles to create a reference work that had "no traffic with...artificial notions of correctness or authority. It must be descriptive not prescriptive." Correct use was determined by how the language was actually spoken, and not by "notions of correctness" set by the learned few. Gove's editorial approach had editors and scholars longing for Webster's Second. Reporters across the country sounded off on Gove and his dictionary. The New York Times complained that Webster's had "surrendered to the permissive school that has been busily extending its beachhead on English instruction," the Times called on Merriam to preserve the printing plates for Webster's Second, so that a new start could be made. And soon Dwight MacDonald, a formidable American critic and writer, emerged as Webster's Third's chief nemesis when in the pages of the New Yorker he likened the new dictionary to the end of civilization."--
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, c[2012
Edition: 1st ed
Description: xiv, 349 p. ; 24 cm
ISBN: 9780062027467
Branch Call Number: 423.09 Ski


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Aug 28, 2017

I didn't find this as interesting a read as "Word by Word". It's more of a history of the various members of the editorial board and their various biases about language and usage. While one supposes that one cannot divorce the biases from the decisions that lead to the finished product, it's a fairly dry and earnest read. It ain't nearly as much fun as "Word by Word".

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