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Created by the most respected American publisher of dictionaries and supervised by the editor Philip Gove, Webster's Third broke with tradition, adding thousands of new words and eliminating "artificial notions of correctness," basing proper usage on how language was actually spoken. The dictionary's revolutionary style sparked what David Foster Wallace called "the Fort Sumter of the Usage Wars." Editors and scholars howled for Gove's blood, calling him an enemy of clear thinking, a great relativist who was trying to sweep the English language into chaos. Critics bayed at the dictionary's permissive handling of ain't. Literary intellectuals such as Dwight Macdonald believed the dictionary's scientific approach to language and its abandonment of the old standard of usage represented the unraveling of civilization.
Entertaining and erudite, The Story of Ain't describes a great societal metamorphosis, tracing the fallout of the world wars, the rise of an educated middle class, and the emergence of America as the undisputed leader of the free world, and illuminating how those forces shaped our language. Never before or since has a dictionary so embodied the cultural transformation of the United States.
Very insightful into the way our language has transformed over the years. I had never thought of many of the points made, and now look at language differently. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Mark
interesting,because it makes you think about what goes into making a dictionary and what a dictionary is supposed to be. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jennifer
Ordered by my mother who is 95. She loves to read books about our language and how our speed as morphed over ten decades.She's a critic so her rating is on point.Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
The book is a history of the development of Webster's Third International dictionary of 1961. The author's forced jocosity reminds you of salesman who puts his arm around your... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Richard Evans Lee
Based on the title, I thought this would be a micro-history of the word "ain't.
Well, it ain't. Read more
The book shines when it discusses the evolution of words through time, and various controversies about particular content in the dictionaries. Read morePublished on August 17, 2013 by T. Burket
The author captures the sociology of the times and keeps what could be a dry subject lively. I wish I had a copy of Webster's Third to peruse.Published on August 14, 2013 by Joe Gaspard
I was thrilled. The relation between normative language and the spoken is shown here in real life.
Dictionaries are the scene. You never get to see what's behind it. Read more
I enjoy stories of language, lexicon, and grammar. I fully expected The Story of Ain't to be a compelling read. But by page 100, I was thoroughly disengaged. Read morePublished on June 24, 2013 by backprop