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The Story Of Ain't: America, Its Language, And The Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published (2012)

by David Skinner(Favorite Author)
3.02 of 5 Votes: 4
0062027468 (ISBN13: 9780062027467)
review 1: Easy-to-read exposé about the furor surrounding Webster's International Dictionary, Third Edition, published in 1961, 27 years after the Second Edition. Changes in linguistics—and differing schools of thought on what should be included in a dictionary itself—account for much of the drama. A serious underlying theme, though, is the possibly buy-out of G&C Merriam, publisher of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries, by American Heritage. Ultimately, AH decided they could not buy enough stock to launch a take-over and began work on their own volume, now considered an industry standard. In the end, Merriam was sold to Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
review 2: The 1934 Second Edition of Mirriam-Websters Dictionary opened the door to reflect the new 1920s slang and loo
... moreser American grammar, but still retained Victorian fixation on propriety. By 1961, there was wide recognition that American English had accelerated far past that line and a new dictionary edition was needed. The Third Edition recognized that people had far more access to regionalisms (movies, radio, novels by Steinbeck and Spillaine that used dialect and obscenities), that WWII had created a whole new vocabulary and that the Cold War was coining words at an enormous rate--babysitter, pinko, beatnik, ranch house... A mis-written press release that touted the inclusion of "ain't" without the whole word entry (which identified it as "non-standard") set off a firestorm among culture guardians (Jacques, Barzun for one) already hysterical at the marketing of Mortimer Adler's Great Books and the adulteration of literature by Readers' Digest. The publishers held the line that they existed not to guard the language, but to make it possible for people to educate themselves on what the words meant in contemporary life--a crucial distinction of American English vs, say, carefully curated French. Obviously, you can see who won, but the screaming and garment rending over what came down to scary 1960s social and cultural changes are something to see. less
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Bogged down like you wouldn't believe. I ain't got time for this.
started June 27
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