What Geoffrey Nunberg said

“Was it the first modern dictionary or the last traditional one? One way or the other, the flap over the appearance of Webster’s Third in 1961 was a never-to-be-repeated episode in American cultural history—a cultural donnybrook that spilled over into the editorial of the New York Times, the Nero Wolfe mystery novels, and the cartoons and columns of the New Yorker, where Dwight Macdonald had a cow. A half century later it’s still a compelling story with contemporary resonances. David Skinner has told it brilliantly, bringing a new and evenhanded understanding not just to the linguistic issues but to the social anxieties they stood in for, as he brings to life the odd cast of characters who played a role in the affair.”

—Geoffrey Nunberg, University of California, Berkeley; emeritus chair of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel; language commentator, Fresh Air, NPR


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