English, our language, was going to hell in a handbag because of its publication. And well respected newspapers across the nation offered their opinion. Well, yes, English, the proper use of the English language in America was changing due in part to a changing culture in America. America was no longer an elitist society where the common, average, middle American was still somewhat illiterate and uneducated. Without going into all the cultural changes America went through from to , of course our language would change; W3 was based on our speaking language NOT how we should say things, but how we DO say things.
A study was made using mostly handwritten letters to the U. Army with words written by a broad spectrum of Americans about their benefits from the government. The study was used and referred to by Dr.
Gove and his core group at Merriam to support decisions made in the Black Book. He strongly encouraged them to look at the words as becoming more pedestrian, looking at the writings of Mickey Spillane, Gypsy R. They all used standard English. Bill allowed returning soldiers the opportunity to graduate with a college degree. The discussion went on for years with Merriam actively responding to criticism. Why American English?
Take the word beatnik which comes from the Russian word Sputnik which was launched in Of course. San Francisco, no surprise there, eh? I always thought vulgar English was just four letter words in English, those words not usually used in public. I received a great education reading this book learned something new about every page. Colloquialisms and sensationalism, journalese. Murrow would be perhaps was offended by that definition and characterization. It took me more time than usual to read this average sized book and not because I was busy either. I found myself getting side-lined, looking up words I was not familiar with, looking through bookshelves seeing what dictionaries I had and I have a lot , and browsing through books on words, going off on all kinds of tangents related to words and dictionaries and the English language in general.
Obviously, based on the dictionaries and books that I have around, I have loved our written word, our spoken word, our language which I now hope to refer to as American English. The article went on to say that was because they were secluded and did not have the outside influences those of us who engaged with others. Makes more sense to me now than it did when I read it years ago. Glancing through other reviews, I see where some said it was boring, sluggish…well, if you have no curiosity about our language and the written word, pass this by.
Take that. View all 23 comments. Mar 07, P D rated it it was ok. What is this book about? That's a great question, and one I'm not convinced the author himself has a clear answer to. It takes pages to get to the actual controversy around 'ain't,' and I spent the first pages wondering why the book alternated between biographies of about five different people eventually focusing on Philip Gove and Dwight MacDonald; but seriously, there's a Dramatis Personae—their heading—at the end of this book , a vague and very high-level history, some stuff about What is this book about?
It takes pages to get to the actual controversy around 'ain't,' and I spent the first pages wondering why the book alternated between biographies of about five different people eventually focusing on Philip Gove and Dwight MacDonald; but seriously, there's a Dramatis Personae—their heading—at the end of this book , a vague and very high-level history, some stuff about communism mixed in with the biographical bits, and then a more in-depth look at linguistics.
This book raises a lot of interesting questions. I think its greatest value comes from use as a tool for discussion about language and whether or not there should be a standard. That's the closest it comes to having any kind of real theme, and it did give me an idea of why I didn't learn any English grammar in school when all the normal-level classes learned how to diagram sentences, but mostly it's a frustrating read.
Not even because of the scattered subject matter alone, but because Skinner's voice itself wavers.
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We get flashes of humor and strong opinions that pop out of nowhere in the middle of informative, objective stories. This makes it very hard to pull out his bias I still can't tell if he likes MacDonald, although I'd guess he respects but disagrees with the man , and when it comes to something that's supposed to be controversial, that's a big deal.
Anyway, I wish Skinner had written this as a book about the evolution of linguistics rather, a scientific approach to the study of language in the context of creating a dictionary.
As it stands now it's a mishmash of topics mingled with bursts of excitement—perhaps like the Webster's Third definition of door he alludes to repeatedly. Oct 20, Patricia rated it did not like it Shelves: non-fiction. I really like linguistics and books about linguistics.
- The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published.
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I like books about the history of language and history in general. I like "dry" non-fiction books. Too many dry facts presented without color or wit, not enough of a 'plot' to keep me turning pages, and just overall boring. Such promise in this one View 1 comment. Oct 18, Sarah rated it liked it Shelves: nonfiction , dtb. This was kind of a slog for me - definitely one of those books where the content was interesting, but the writing left a lot to be desired.
I would love to hear this story in the words of a different author -- I double majored in English and linguistics, and as such I've long been interested in the concept of prescriptive versus descriptive linguistics. This topic had such potential in that department -- but really fell flat.
‘The Story of Ain’t’: the controversial overhaul of Webster’s international dictionary
Jul 05, Michael Burnam-Fink rated it really liked it Shelves: All of these are playground squabblings compared to the holy war between lexicographic prescriptivists, who believe a dictionary should describe how one should write, and lexicographic descriptivists, who believe that a dictionary should catalog how people actually use words.
David Foster Wallace decried the slipshod mediocrity of the Third in one of his essays written 40 years after the thing was published. Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia's official portrait has him resting his hand on the Second Edition , before the philistines ruined English. The Story of Ain't is a cultural history of Webster's Third. I get the sense of publisher muddling in the title. To tell the story, Skinner loops through the whole early 20th century culture of letters, as America shook off the lingering vestiges of an anglophile and Classics oriented sensibility towards words, and found a new jazzy vernacular, rooted in new media like radio and TV, and the new sciences and technologies of the transformative period bookended by the Jazz Age and the Space Age.
Skinner's book wanders at the start, eventually finding a protagonist in Webster editor Philip Gove, and antagonist in literary critic Dwight MacDonald.
Along the way is the emergence of linguistics as a field, educational reform, political movements, the Second World War, and an attempted corporate take-over. The book is a little scattershot, but manages to make this story almost thrilling. Apr 22, Jeff Kelleher rated it really liked it. If you are part of that quirky minority who entertain themselves by staying up until 2 a.
This is the story of "Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged", issued in and triggering the greatest linguistic war in American history. Its incendiary premise was that dictionaries should reflect, not the ex cathedra pronouncements of haughty "experts", but the actual usages of If you are part of that quirky minority who entertain themselves by staying up until 2 a.
Its incendiary premise was that dictionaries should reflect, not the ex cathedra pronouncements of haughty "experts", but the actual usages of ordinary people. The "Ain't" in the title refers to the Dictionary's then-astonishing pronouncement that the word is "used orally in most parts of the U. Merriam Company tells a visitor, "Sorry.
Gove ain't in. Gove's dictionary did not endorse "ain't", or "due to" or "different than" or "galore" or "scads" or "scrumptious" or "knowed" or any of a thousand other common locutions that pompous pendants like no, I mean "as" Dwight MacDonald claimed portended the end of civilization just by being listed. What it DID do was restrain judgment by eliminating the Webster's Second practice of attaching "vulgar" or "colloq.
One commentator called W-3 "Bolshevist. But if you are one who happily ends sentences with prepositions, splits infinitives, uses "none" as plural, and insists correctly that "I ain't home yet" is proper English, you will have fun with this tale of linguistic pettiness, told with wit, irony, and flair. Jan 05, Patty rated it did not like it Shelves: didn-t-finish-reading. I thought this was going to be the story of how "ain't" was accepted into the dictionary, but it ended up being the story of some of the men who were involved in that decision.
That in itself wouldn't be a problem but the writing is wordy, somewhat pretentious, and tedious.
The Story of Ain't - David Skinner - Hardcover
I couldn't get past the boredom factor. This is one of the rare books I didn't bother finishing. Oct 17, Crystal marked it as didn-t-finish. I read a few chapters and lost interest. I couldn't keep straight the names and what year the story was being told in. It was written as narrative, but I would have liked the chapters to be titled and grouped.
I couldn't decide how far I would have to go to get to the meat of the story so I put it down. Maybe I'll try again another day Jan 23, Gary Misch rated it liked it. How interesting can a book be that recounts the history of a dictionary, and people who dote on words and language?