“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.”
“Skinner begins with the publication of Webster’s Second New International Dictionary in 1934, and takes his readers through the 1930s and past World War II, onward to the appointment in 1950 of Philip Gove as editor of W3. He recounts the jarring reception of the new dictionary, and ends with the extended and ultimately abortive attempt of the American Heritage Company to acquire the Merriam-Webster Company—an attempt largely based on the assumption that W3 had greatly weakened it. Skinner provides portraits of the leading players—lexicographers, linguists, critics, publishing executives—and their radically differing points of view on the controversy stirred by W3. What in less skilled hands might have been arid and parochial in David Skinner’s becomes a lively account of a subject of interest to anyone concerned about the English language in America.”
Read the whole essay.