The Times called The Story of Ain’t “an engrossing account of the continuing ruckus over Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.” [Read more...]
“It takes true brilliance to lift the arid tellings of lexicographic fussing into the readable realm of the thriller and the bodice-ripper. With his riveting account of the furious rows over the publication in the Sixties of Webster’s 3rd edition, David Skinner has done precisely this, taking a fine story and honing it to popular perfection.”
—Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic and The Professor and the Madman
Last week I drove to historic Chestertown to talk about The Story of Ain’t with a nonfiction reading group at the Kent County Library. It was the best! (Exclamation point completely sincere, by the way.) Chestertown looks a bit like Old Town, Alexandria, with beautifully preserved eighteenth and nineteenth century houses. The reading group was excellent, smart, all male—though the session with me was open to the public and a number of women attended. The reading group members were all retired professionals, as far as I could tell, and they were really thoughtful readers. And very serious too: Another book they had read recently, they told me, was called On Certainty. Not the Wittgenstein book, I don’t think. Afterwards, I went to lunch with several of the members and learned that the guy who recommended my book to the group had bought his copy in Old Town at Hooray for Books! (This exclamation point is, in fact, part of the store’s name.) What a great experience it was to connect with a group of people who had just read my book. Very fun. I especially liked this sign. Apparently it had been on the sidewalk for a few days.
“Skinner’s book is a cautionary tale about an intellectual witch-burning.” Read the whole review here.
Chief Correspondent for CBC News Peter Mansbridge discussed The Story of Ain’t on his news blog, recalling that in 1970s television news style was a little more formal than it is today: “Unless you were a convicted criminal, we called you Mr., Mrs., or Miss in our stories.”
Ed Battistella, University of Oregon professor and author of Do You Make These Mistakes in English?: The Story of Sherwin Cody’s Famous Language School, wrote up The Story of Ain’t at Literary Ashland, calling it ’“a compelling intellectual drama.” He addresses the question of what Ain’t has to add to the well-known story of the Webster’s Third fracas and Herbert Morton’s account.
Ever have the feeling that words should come with warning labels? In most dictionaries, they do.
“In The Story of Ain’t, David Skinner . . . has chronicled the making of W3 and the rocky reception that greeted it upon its entrance into the world. His account of what he calls “the most controversial dictionary ever published” is comprehensive and evenhanded, and written in a clear and jaunty style.” [Read more...]
Janet Maslin writes: “When it comes to the central conflict between [Dwight] Macdonald and Philip Gove, the editor most responsible for setting the Third’s agenda, [Skinner] frames their differences with perfect clarity. ‘Gove had unveiled the great shining accomplishment of his life,’ Mr. Skinner says. ‘Dwight MacDonald wrote the best essay of his life, mocking it.’” Read more.