The Story of Ain't

America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published

By David Skinner
(HarperTorch, Hardcover, 9780062027467, 349pp.)

Publication Date: October 2012

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Description

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.




About the Author
David Skinner is a writer and editor living in Alexandri

David Skinner is a writer and editor living in Alexandria, Virginia. He writes about language, culture, and his lifea, Virginia. He writes about language, culture, and his life as a husband, father, and suburbanite. He has been a staff as a husband, father, and suburbanite. He has been a staff editor at the "Weekly Standard", for which he still writes, editor at the "Weekly Standard", for which he still writes, and an editor of "Doublethink" magazine. He has written for and an editor of "Doublethink" magazine. He has written for the "Wall Street Journal", the "New Atlantis", "Slate", the"the "Wall Street Journal", the "New Atlantis", "Slate", the" Washington Times", the "American Spectator", and many other Washington Times", the "American Spectator", and many other publications. Skinner is the editor of Humanities magazine, publications. Skinner is the editor of Humanities magazine, which is published by the National Endowment for the Humani which is published by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is on the usage panel for the "American Heritage Dties, and is on the usage panel for the "American Heritage Dictionary". ictionary".

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