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The story of ain't: America, its language, and the most controversial dictionary ever published

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"It takes true brilliance to lift the arid tellings of lexicographic fussing into the readable realm of the thriller and the bodice-ripper....David Skinner has done precisely this, taking a fine story and honing it to popular perfection." --Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman

The Story of Ain't by David Skinner is the captivating true chronicle of the creation of Merriam Webster's Third New International Dictionary in 1961, the most controversial dictionary ever published.

Created by the most respected American publisher of dictionaries and supervised by the editor Philip Gove, Webster's Third broke with tradition, adding thousands of new words and eliminating "artificial notions of correctness," basing proper usage on how language was actually spoken. The dictionary's revolutionary style sparked what David Foster Wallace called "the Fort Sumter of the Usage Wars." Editors and scholars howled for Gove's blood, calling him an enemy of clear thinking, a great relativist who was trying to sweep the English language into chaos.

Skinner's surprising and witty account will enthrall fans of Winchester's The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, and The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs, as it explores a culture in transition and the brilliant, colorful individuals behind it.

Entertaining and erudite, The Story of Ain't describes a great societal metamorphosis, revealing the fallout of the world wars, the rise of an educated middle class, the emergence of America as the undisputed leader of the free world, and how those forces shaped our language. Never before or since has a dictionary so embodied the cultural transformation of the United States.

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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID 5e74fa79-560d-ede1-a759-a983b2afcb83
Grouping Title story of ain t america its language and the most controversial dictionary ever published
Grouping Author skinner david
Grouping Category book
Last Grouping Update 2020-05-27 22:43:30PM
Last Indexed 2020-05-28 00:00:41AM

Solr Details

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author David Skinner
author_display Skinner, David
available_at_catalog Main Kids
Main Library
collection_catalog Non-Fiction
detailed_location_catalog Main Library - Adult Non-Fiction
display_description "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."-- Provided by publisher.
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isbn 9780062027467
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literary_form Non Fiction
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owning_library_catalog Nashville Public Library
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primary_isbn 9780062027467
publishDate 2012
Bib IdFormatFormat CategoryEditionLanguagePublisherPublication DatePhysical Description
overdrive:625d229d-39a2-439b-afb2-4ea7465b0205 eBook eBook English HarperCollins 2012
ils:CARL0000398104 Book Books First edition. English Harper, 2012. xiv, 349 p. ; 24 cm.
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Bib IdItem IdGrouped StatusStatusLocally OwnedAvailableHoldableBookableIn Library Use OnlyLibrary OwnedHoldable PTypesBookable PTypesLocal Url
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subject_facet Encyclopedias and dictionaries -- History and criticism
English language -- Lexicography -- History -- 20th century
Gove, Philip Babcock, -- 1902-1972
Webster's third new international dictionary of the English language unabridged
title_display The story of ain't : America, its language, and the most controversial dictionary ever published
title_full The Story of Ain't America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published
The story of ain't : America, its language, and the most controversial dictionary ever published / David Skinner
title_short The story of ain't :
title_sub America, its language, and the most controversial dictionary ever published
topic_facet Encyclopedias and dictionaries
English language
Gove, Philip Babcock
History and criticism