Webster’s ain’t

Just out, The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner, editor of Humanities magazine, is not about the verb form in the title but about “the controversy over Webster’s Third” when it was published “with much fanfare in 1961″. The book sets out to explain why the dictionary “was so jam-packed with fighting words” (ain’t was one of them), words that created a great deal of uproar among linguists and non-linguists alike. Read more about it in a review of the book by Janet Maslin in Wednesday’s issue of the online New York Times.

And while you’re at it, you might also like to read the article that inspired the book, “Ain’t that the Truth”, or listen to John J. Miller interviewing David Skinner. And guess what the first example David Skinner gave of a prescriptive comment is? Yes, it is the split infinitive. And he also raises the question of whether “we” should speak like the British. And finally, he makes a point for why we need usage guides (or rather, prescriptive dictionaries like the American Heritage Dictionary). All these issues are dealt with in this blog, too.

Thanks for the NYT link, Bob!

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One Response to Webster’s ain’t

  1. Here’s another review by Geoff Nunberg on ‘The Story of Ain’t’: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/03/162221715/when-words-were-worth-fighting-over .

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