“As P.J. O’Rourke so aptly blurbed: “With one small contraction David Skinner tells the tale of a great battle in the 1960s War Between the Real and the Ideal.”
“I’m happy to have this occasion to post an enthusiastic recommendation: You should immediately run out (virtually or physically) and buy this book, in any of its editions.” So sayeth Mark Liberman, University of Pennsylvania linguist, about The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published.
When it happens I feel as if I have stepped into a Far Side cartoon. I am a magazine editor, and the galley of an article will come back from a proofreader with a low-frequency word circled and this comment in the margin: “Does this word even exist?” or “Is this a real word?” Read the rest.
The Times called The Story of Ain’t “an engrossing account of the continuing ruckus over Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.” Continue reading “New York Times Editors’ Choice”
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.