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

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ISBN#9780062027467
BIB ID#1594316
Call# 423.09 S

The story of ain't

0
Author
Publisher
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.
Subjects
Description
xiv, 349 pages ; 24 cm.
Summary
"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 busilyextending 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'sThird's chief nemesis when in the pages of the New Yorker he likened the new dictionary to the end of civilization."--

Reviews and Notes

Summary/Annotation ->  Few decades have caused more controversy than the 1960s, a time of explosive change in which tradition and authority gave way to freedom--a sweeping transformation crystalized in the 1961 publication of Webster's Third New International Dictionary.Created by the most respected American publisher of dictionaries and supervised by editor Philip Gove, Webster's Third broke with convention, 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 debate in universities, libraries, newspapers, and living rooms nationwide. Critics instantly took umbrage at the dictionary's handling of "ain't," among other blasphemies. Literary intellectuals like Dwight Macdonald believed the dictionary's scientific approach to language and its abandonment of the old standard of usage represented the end of civilization.In this intriguing history, David Skinner tells the story of the people who made the dictionary, those who denounced it, and the forces that shaped it. He traces the shift in the American lexicon in the decades leading up to 1961, identifying the changes that affected our language from the Great Depression through World War II to the 1950s. As America became the undisputed leader of the free world, its citizens were becoming more educated. What came to be known as middlebrow culture was born, and alongside it a cadre of cultural critics, including Macdonald who condemned its permissiveness and divergence from standards.Entertaining and erudite, The Story of Ain't describes a great social metamorphosis in America and illuminates the intriguing yet little known early episode in the culture war that continues to divide the nation.

Availability

Locationsort iconCall NumberItem TypeVolumeBarcodeStatus
Central Adult Non-Fiction423.09 SAdult Hard Cover0228561730521Available
Central Adult Non-Fiction423.09 SAdult Hard Cover0228568218496Available
Flushing423.09 SAdult Hard Cover0228545929264Available
Lefferts423.09 SAdult Hard Cover0228561569457Available

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