John Simpson, Word Detective

unnamed-2.jpgWas impressed by this lexicographical memoir by former OED editor John Simpson. I have read enough writing by lexicographers to know that an appetite for words does not usually come with the ability to tell a story. Fortunately, like the deliciously funny Kory Stamper (Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries), Simpson makes it look simple to know a lot about words and, at the same time, to use them with felicity.

Edmund Wilson and the Rise of American Lit

HJamesinLoAFor several years, I have had a hunger to write this piece about the arrival of the Library of America on the publishing scene. I was amazed that less than a century ago only a few American literary figures believed American literature was capable of greatness. After World War Two, however, a consensus developed in favor of American literature. Problem solved? Not exactly. Because then there was a terrific fight over who would play curator to this incredible literary tradition.

Skinner on Redskin

redskinI wrote an article about the history of the term redskin for Lexicon Valley, the language blog on Slate. (Lexicon Valley is also an excellent podcast I recommend checking out.) My discussion was based on the research of Ives Goddard, an expert in Indian languages at the Smithsonian Institution and main adviser to the Oxford English Dictionary on Indian languages and culture. Check it out.