This issue of the Newsletter is almost completely a compilation of materials coming out of DSNA22—our conference held at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. These materials include a complete program, reports from the various DSNA meetings, award presentations,  information on the Barnhart and Cordell collections, entertainment, Steve Kleinedler’s presidential speech, and many photographs. You will also find some member news as usual and an obituary for Michael Montgomery written by Connie Eble. For those of you who could attend the Conference, this issue will remind you of the event, and for those who could not attend, it will offer a vicarious experience of the Conference. 


Our Conference in Bloomington is now history. The Fall Newsletter will be devoted to it. Please visit this site September 1 for a full treatment.

Note that Globalex Minutes are kept updated all year on the Dictionary News segment of the Newsletter.


We’re happy to report that registration for DSNA 22 (May 8-11, 2019, in Bloomington, Indiana) is open! Register at

Attendance at DSNA 22 is open to members of the DSNA. If you aren’t sure about your membership status, contact the DSNA office at We encourage you to register early to guarantee your lodging preference.

We look forward to seeing you in May!

See for full details.


At the upcoming DSNA biennial conference in Bloomington, two awards will be presented. These awards honor colleagues of great distinction, and they are named for distinguished colleagues:

  • The Frederic G. Cassidy Award for Distinguished Achievement in Lexicography or Lexicology will be presented to a longstanding member of the Society who has, throughout their career, significantly advanced lexicography or lexicology by major achievements as a lexicographer in research or practice at the highest scholarly or professional standards. [Frederic G. Cassidy (1907–2000) was a Fellow of the society, editor-in-chief of the Dictionary of American Regional English, and, with R. B. LePage, editor of the Dictionary of Jamaican English. For a full account of his career, see the memorial article in Dictionaries(2001).]
  • The Richard W. Bailey Award for Distinguished Service to Lexicography and Lexicology will be presented to a longstanding member of the Society who has, throughout their career, significantly advanced lexicography or lexicology by service to members of these fields and to the fields themselves. [Richard W. Bailey (1939–2011) was also a Fellow of the Society, as well as its Vice-President (1977–1979 and 1999–2001), President (2001–2003) and Past President (2003–2005). A fuller account of his career can be found in Dictionaries(2011).]

The members of the selection committee are Donna Farina, Steve Kleinedler, Katherine Martin, Lindsay Rose Russell, and Jesse Sheidlower. We welcome nominations for either or both awards from any DSNA member. Please email your nomination(s) to Steve Kleinedler by January 15, 2019 at . In the subject line please use Bailey Nomination: [Nominee] and/or Cassidy Nomination [Nominee].


2015: Gerald Cohen (Cassidy) J. Edward Gates (Bailey)

2017:  Lise Winer (Cassidy), Madeline Kripke (Bailey)


Vernacular Practices of Lexicography

Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America invites submissions for a special issue focused on practices of lexicography arising outside of professionalized or scholarly dictionary-making. Other disciplines describe as “vernacular” the everyday practices and products that coexist (and may preexist) alongside officially codified and valorized practices. Scant research addresses the topic even though, on the scale of human linguistic history, most “practices of lexicography” have taken place outside the context of professional lexicography.

What are practices of lexicography?

  • Explanations of meaning, in formal definitions or by other, pretheoretical strategies
  • Glosses
  • Organization of words into alphabetical, thematic, or other lists
  • Thematic or schematic arrangements of concepts (thesauruses, ontologies; alignment-chart memes, Venn diagram memes)
  • Division of word meanings into senses and methods of indicating multiple senses

What is vernacular lexicography?

Most, if not all, of what happens on Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary; digital, crowdsourced, and other electronically mediated community dictionary projects; glossaries — the brief, usually simplified and topic-constrained, dictionary-shaped word-to-definition lists found in some books; dictionary-formatted creative works; dictionary-style texts that appear in marketing, consumer goods, and internet memes that may appropriate, subvert, or parody professional standards. The tropes of structure and content in these works reveal what everyday people notice (and don’t notice) about dictionaries.

Between vernacular and professionalized lexicography

  • When did the professionalization of lexicography begin?
  • What similarities and differences are there between the work of vernacular lexicographers today and the work of important pre-professional lexicographers such as Nathan Bailey and Samuel Johnson?

Insiders and outsiders in vernacular lexicography

Missionaries have documented the languages of the communities they work with and—though now trained by organizations like SIL (—missionary lexicography has historically been vernacular. What kind of lexicography arises when an endangered or minority language is documented, from the inside, by its native speakers? How compatible are diverse indigenous linguistic practices with (largely western) lexicographical traditions? Does adherence to present-day lexicographical standards erase essential aspects of such languages?

Inquiries and expressions of interest are strongly encouraged ASAP to special issue editor

Orion Montoya (

Final submission deadline July 8, 2019. Publication date November 2019.


Electronic lexicography in the 21st century

eLex conference series continues with a conference in the beautiful city of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Portugal. Please forward this announcement to any colleagues or lists that may be interested in the conference.

Dates: 1-3 October 2019

Venue: Vila Galé Hotel, Sintra, Portugal

Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 February 2019

Conference website: (more information available soon)

Language of the conference: English

Further information such as call for papers, keynote speakers, registration etc. will be made available soon. The authors of accepted papers will be invited to submit a full paper for the conference proceedings, which are indexed by SCOPUS.

Those interested in sponsoring the conference or conducting a pre/post-conference workshop, please contact the organizing committee at <> .

Looking forward to seeing you in Portugal.

eLex 2019 organizing committee:

Tanara Zingano Kuhn, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra (head of the organising committee)

Margarita Correia, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra / University of Lisbon

José Pedro Ferreira, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra

Maarten Janssen CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra

Isabel Pereira, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra

Jelena Kallas, Institute of the Estonian Language

Miloš Jakubíček, Lexical Computing

Iztok Kosem, University of Ljubljana / Jožef Stefan Institute

Simon Krek, University of Ljubljana / “Jožef Stefan” Institute

Carole Tiberius, Dutch Language Institute

Honorary Presidential Memberships for 2018: Call for Nominations

Honorary Presidential Memberships recognize outstanding professional lexicographers and lexicologists early in their careers by awarding four-year memberships to the DSNA.  Additionally, for the first DSNA conference that a recipient attends during this four-year period, $400 will be awarded to help defray the cost.

Members of the Society are encouraged to nominate graduate students or professional lexicographers in the first five years of their careers for Presidential Memberships. Please send letters of nomination to Steve Kleinedler at In the Subject line, please put “Honorary Presidential Membership Nomination:” followed by the last name of the nominee. Letters should explain nominee’s lexicographical or lexicological interests, relevant activity and accomplishments, how sponsors see their nominees developing professionally, and why nominees should be members of the DSNA, in terms of both what the DSNA can do for the nominee, and what the nominee can do for the DSNA.

Please send nomination emails by September 30, 2018. Presidential Members will choose Founding Members or Fellows of the Society as their namesakes: so, a successful nominee might be, for instance, the Frederic G. Cassidy Presidential Member of the Dictionary Society of North America, if they so choose. Help us identify and recognize the next generation of DSNA’s leaders today!

Calling for Members for New DSNA Membership Committee

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this year, the DSNA Executive voted to install a Membership Committee, for which I have taken the pro-tem lead.

We have seen in last year’s (very successful) attempt by David Jost (thanks a lot!) that a more active outreach is crucial for a healthy membership count. In this next phase, we would like to expand our efforts and attract new groups of potential members, for which I’d like to form a committee of 4-6 people that will report to the Board. If you’re interested to help decide, via the character of its membership so to speak, where DSNA will be heading, please be in touch. There are some ideas, but nothing is set in stone at all and I hope, very much indeed, that you will bring your own ideas to the table. Think: “DSNA in the 21st century? What do you need to do to stay/become (more) relevant?”

Please contact me if interested at Stefan dot dollinger at u b c dot c a.


Assoc. Prof. Stefan Dollinger, Ph.D, M.A.
Departments of English Language & Literatures, UBC Vancouver
Canadian English Lab, Director, UBC Vancouver
(located on unceded Musqueam Territory)

Middle English Dictionary Renovation

A year ago, we at the University of Michigan Library reported that long-deferred revision of the online Middle English Dictionary and its associated resources had begun, thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (awarded under its Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program), as well as the University of Michigan Library, which has taken up the challenge of Michigan’s decades-long commitment to historical lexicography. Though no dictionary revision is ever complete, and least of all this one, we can now report that the immediate goals of the project have been met, and that our revision efforts have borne fruit in the form of a new online platform and interface, bolstered by improved and enlarged data. We have been making changes in all three of the components of the Middle English Compendium (Dictionary, Bibliography, and Corpus), but only the former two of three are getting the new interface, for now. The Corpus is merely getting new texts (roughly doubling the total, as well as expanding the genre coverage), but remains temporarily housed on the old interface.

Changes to the data underlying the Dictionary and Bibliography fall roughly into four categories: enlarging the content (more quotations, more senses, more entries, more works cited, etc.); updating the data (to reflect changes in scholarly consensus, and the recent appearance of reference works like the Digital Index of Middle English Verse and the Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English); correcting the data (where it was wrong or misleading); and ‘opening’ the data to make it less print-oriented and more computer-searchable.

Changes to the interface partly reflect changes in the data — for example, we now include a search by modern English reflex based on improved links between MED and OED; and partly reflect a more modern sensibility with regard to the user experience. We have given up the ‘90s look and embraced something a little cleaner and mobile-friendly, with some modern tricks like marginal facets (by part of speech, subject label, and language of etymon) and type-ahead word selection.

Finally, changes to the underlying indexing platform move the MED from an obsolescent, vulnerable and heavily customized one-off system to one employing modern and far more nearly off-the-shelf components, ensuring the continued viability of the site, as well as making it far easier to update regularly and frequently–something we intend to do.

The ‘old’ MED and the ‘new’ MED will run concurrently for a few months, at least till we work the bugs out of the new system (please report any you find), and probably till we add an ‘advanced search’ with cross-field Boolean options to the new system.

The URL for the new MED is:

What the new MED gains:

  • Changes to roughly 12,000 entries.
  • Draft additions to about 8,000 of those…
  • …including 10,000 additional quotations.
  • 2,000 wholly new entries (mostly in draft or ‘stub’ form).
  • A smarter, more modern interface, with some faceting.
  • A more informative results list, making it easier to choose the desired entry.
  • A (beta) lookup search by modern English reflex.
  • The expansion of many cryptic abbreviations; the resolution of 80% of the surviving blind (undocumented) bibliographic references
  • Improvement of the ‘other spellings’ search by resolving all those difficult-to-parse parenthes(es and -dashes.
  • More nearly comprehensive linking to OED and DOE.
  • Redatings of some manuscripts, done in coordination with OED.
  • About 350 works added to the bibliography, including most of the major editions of the past twenty years.
  • References to DIMEV and LAEME (from the Bibliography) and to J. Norri’s Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary (from the Dictionary).
  • About 150 additional texts in the associated Corpus of Middle English.
  • The ability to be updated as often as new material is available.

What the new MED loses:

  • Some of the more sophisticated but less used multi-field Boolean searches (at least for the time being).
  • Its frozen-in-time quality.
  • Its veneer of authority and comprehensiveness, since we are adding much semi-digested material without having the time to incorporate it fully; many ‘stub entries’ on the Wikipedia model, and many draft additions, all marked as such. Making the material available seemed important enough that it was worth exposing the fact (which was always true) that the MED, like almost any dictionary, is always a contingent set of surmises, always a semi-informed work in progress.

What will stay the same:

  • The same familiar structure.
  • The same text, aside from corrections, etc.
  • The same editorial principles.
  • A continuous editorial tradition (some of the same lexicographers)
  • An unchanged platform for the Corpus, at the moment, since it sits on a generic library text-serving platform that will be upgraded separately.

Work still in progress:

  • Ongoing correction and supplementation.
  • Identification and regularization of taxonomic ‘binomials’.
  • Identification of internal cross-references and implementation as links.
  • Identification and unpacking of cited phrases and compounds.
  • Expansion of the inconsistent lists of spellings.

With thanks to:

  • The U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities
  • The University of Michigan Library
  • Michigan’s MED gift fund

Staff: Paul Schaffner (editor, P.I.); John Latta and Mona Logarbo (editors); Robert E. Lewis (MED chief editor emeritus; volunteer editor); Evan David, Sarah Huttenlocher, and Alyssa Pierce (editorial assistants); Chris Powell (eagle-eyed retrieval specialist); Bill Dueber, Gordon Leacock, and Tom Burton-West (programmers); Ben Howell (interface designer); Bridget Burke (interface developer); and Nabeela Jaffer (implementation project manager).

For a complete run of Newsletters before 2017 click on the Resources tab.

Walter D. Glanze, R.I.P.

Yvonne M. Lacy, the daughter of Walter D. Glanze, one of the founding members of the Dictionary Society of North America, has informed us that he died last Wednesday, May 30, 2018 in New York City at the age of 89. If you wish to send condolences, she can be reached at The obituary for Walter Glanze can be found here:

The Stanford Dictionary Lab

Sarah Ogilvie, Associate Editor of Dictionaries, member of the Executive Board and the Publications Committee, announces her new Dictionary Lab at Stanford Here is the About statement.


Arcade on the Quad

The Stanford Dictionary Lab is a research initiative that applies qualitative and quantitative analysis to the study of dictionaries and languages around the world. The Lab is open to Stanford students, professors, and collaborators beyond. In the spirit of digital humanities, many of our projects are collaborative and apply digital tools and methods (such as text analysis, data visualization, network analysis, graph theory, and machine learning) to dictionary data in order to ask new questions and create new knowledge.

Research at the Lab focusses on three main areas: research on the languages of the world by analyzing dictionary data; research on general lexicography and lexicology relating to all languages; and research on the history and creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Often called ‘forensic dictionary analysis’, this methodology combines statistical, textual, contextual, and qualitative analyses to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of language, and the making and reception of dictionaries.

We welcome collaborations on any language of the world, so please get in touch with the Director, Dr Sarah Ogilvie (sogilvie at, if you have an idea for a collaborative project relating to the analysis of dictionaries and language.

A recent study at found that, despite a common misconception, Modafinil doesn’t act like amphetamines or methylphenidate (Ritalin). It should be noted that methylphenidate does not belong to the class of amphetamines, but in some aspects, it has a similar effect. At the same time, both methylphenidate and amphetamines are used for substitution treatment in patients addicted to cocaine.


Nominating Committee Set

The nominating committee is now full: Michael Hancher (thru conference 2019), Connie Eble (thru conference 2019), Katy Isaacs (through conference 2021), and Sarah Ogilvie (through conference 2021)


Paean to dictionaries

Thanks to Lise Winer for sending this paean to dictionaries.

Alberto Manguel, The magical power of dictionaries. Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 12, 2018.


A Way with Words: Celebrating the Cordell Collection

Indiana State University has been celebrating what it calls its “Sesquicentennial Era,” from 2015 through 2020. ISU’s earliest incarnation, the Indiana State Normal School, was founded by the Indiana state legislature in 1865 but its doors didn’t open until 1870. In the midst of its festivities, on November 9, 2017, the university focused its attention on two jewels in its crown, both connected to lexicography and DSNA: the Joseph S. Schick Lecture Series and the Warren N. and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection of Dictionaries. On that evening, more than 130 members of the ISU community and a smaller group of DSNA representatives gathered in the Cunningham Memorial Library Events Area — familiar to those who attended the DSNA (2009) or ICHLL (2016) meetings at Indiana University — for a special event titled “A Way with Words.” DSNA was the event’s primary external sponsor

Joseph S. Schick, who taught in the Department of English at ISU for 30 years, endowed a lecture series on language, literature, and lexicography before 1900. To date, more than 200 scholars from around the Anglophone world have spoken in the series, including sometime DSNA members John Algeo, Richard W. Bailey, F. G. Cassidy, Jack Lynch, Jesse Sheidlower, and Allen Walker Read, who delivered the inaugural lecture in 1988. The Cordell Collection was established with a gift of 453 early dictionaries from ISU alumnus Warren N. Cordell in 1969. The collection now holds more than 30,000 volumes, as well as various archives and documents. As a tour guide for sponsors of the event puts it, “World renowned, it is the largest collection of its kind in the western hemisphere.” The collection spurred Edward Gates to organize two conferences on dictionary history during the 1970s from which DSNA was born (for more on which see my “The Dictionary Society of America: The Early Years,” parts 1 and 2, in Dictionaries 35 and 38(1)). Many once and future DSNA members — Dabney Bankert, Lisa Berglund, Monique Cormier, Giovanni Iamartino, Rod McConchie, Linda Mitchell, Chris Mulhall, Mira Podhajecka, Lindsay Russell, and John Taylor — have received grants to study in the Cordell Collection.

As a benefit of sponsorship, DSNA had a table for eight at the banquet that made up part of the evening’s program. Chairs at the table were filled by Michael Adams, Traci Nagle, Kevin Rottet, Lindsay Russell, Luanne and Mike von Schneidemesser, and Carly Bahler and Martin Maillot, two of Kevin’s graduate students. Prior to the banquet, DSNA representatives were given a special tour of the Cordell Collection and provided with the full-color, forty-page guide to the tour and collection, which includes “Remarks by Warren N. Cordell” — first published in Paul S. Koda’s A Short-Title Catalogue of the Warren and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection of Dictionaries 1475–1900 (1975) — and an annotated bibliography of the works on display in the tour, among them incunabula and early printed dictionaries and grammars of Balbi, Calepino, and Molina, as well as the newest addition to the collection, Johannes Tortellius’ De Orthographia dictionum e Graecis tractarum (1471), purchased partly with the event’s proceeds, including DSNA’s sponsorship. (Copies of the guide are available from Cinda May, Chair of Special Collections at the Cunningham Memorial Library — and DSNA member — at DSNA representatives were taken behind the scenes, into the closed stacks, for a closer view of the collection.

After dinner, the assembled guests were treated to a presentation by DSNA member Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, co-hosts and co-producers of A Way with Words, a popular public radio show about word history, usage, and related matters. Questions and answers followed, full of humor and high spirits. As we like to say, a good time was had by all — unusually, this time, in the interest of lexicography. I’m tempted to write that there’s no better way for DSNA to celebrate its historical, continuing relationship with the Cordell Collection, but, really, there is: donate materials or send gifts to support it, or use its materials, indeed, even apply for a fellowship to study there intensively. Visit and


The DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct has been officially established and can be read here:

DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct

Drafted August 1, 2017

Second Draft: September 26, 2017

Adopted by DSNA Executive Board: October 18, 2017

 Professional Conduct and Collegiality

Freedom of expression and vigorous debate are crucial to scholarly exchange. DSNA strives to uphold these principles at all times, while strongly valuing mutual respect and providing an environment for exchange free of intimidation. We expect speakers and questioners at our meetings to demonstrate civility at all times, even in the midst of disagreement.

As a Society, we recognize that lexicography and lexicology are disciplines that have a complex, sometimes exclusionary, history. We welcome new scholarship that challenges our presuppositions regarding our field, while also upholding a commitment to excellence in scholarship and research, and integrity in our work. The Society’s membership exhibits substantial diversity in terms of profession, expertise, and interest. We encourage the input of all our members, regardless of formal qualification and experience, as we together advance the scholarly and public understanding of lexicography and lexicology.

Nondiscrimination and AntiHarassment Standards

The DSNA is dedicated to providing a safe, hospitable, and productive environment for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or employment status. Accordingly, the Society deplores all harassment and is sensitive to the harm suffered by persons who experience it. We expect those participating in DSNA meetings and events to treat others with the utmost respect, and not to engage in behavior that is intimidating, threatening, or harassing. This expectation applies to all involved, including but not limited to our speakers, staff, volunteers, attendees and guests.

The DSNA prohibits harassment on any grounds, including race, ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or employment status. Harassment constitutes physical or verbal behavior that is not welcome by a member and/or that is personally intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive or threatening. It may include such actions as: (1) verbal abuse; (2) degrading comments; (3) the display of offensive objects or images outside of a scholarly context (e.g., a presentation on the treatment of profanity in a dictionary would not be considered offensive whereas the use of profanity directed at a fellow member would be); (4) conduct or comments of a lewd or lascivious nature; and (5) other conduct that the targeted individual (or group of individuals) might reasonably find to be intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive, or threatening.

Reporting Mechanism

Harassment and unprofessional conduct, in any form, prevent us from carrying out our mandate of fostering a spirit of collegiality and support. Such conduct may jeopardize a member’s participation in DSNA events or their membership. If an individual believes that she or he has experienced harassment as outlined above at the Society’s meetings or events, the individual is requested to report it immediately to a member of the Executive Board and/or the President of the Societ


American Heritage Dictionary News

Steve Kleinedler, president of the DSNA, has passed on this news about the American Heritage Dictionary, from a statement that was released on February 1, 2018.

“With the continuing decline in consumer demand for print dictionaries we have reduced our front-list plans steadily over the past decade, and reorganized our staff in stages.  Today, regretfully, we eliminated two positions.  In the spring, Executive Editor Steve Kleinedler will transition to Editor at Large, working on a part-time basis.  We will continue to update the American Heritage and Webster’s New World databases, continue to work with licensing partners, and continue to publish updated editions as the market allows.”  – Bruce Nichols, SVP and Publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


News from DSNA Executive Secretary

As of 2/3/2018

The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The editor is David Jost. News of members and other items of interest to our readers are welcome. Please send Newsletter correspondence, such as items for publication, to the editor at Send Member News submissions to You may also send submission for News on the website to David Jost.

Send correspondence re membership, etc. to

Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537


The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The editor is David Jost. Associate Editor is Peter Chipman. Member news items can be sent to Other Newsletter correspondence, such as articles for publication, should be directed to the editor at

Send correspondence re membership, etc. to

Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537

This issue:  Vol. 43 No. 1 (2019)

Cumulative issue #87


A lexicographic avant-garde

Win Carus

The Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovskii argues in his Theory of Prose (1929) that at any given time a literary system contains three competing and coexisting generations: the old-timers, the central trend, and the avant-garde. This note will briefly present two representatives of the lexicographic avant-garde — specifically, lexicographic knowledge bases — that might provide some new directions for lexicography in general.

[V. Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, Dalkey Archive Press (1991).]

The two knowledge bases discussed here are the English WordNet ( and the NIH Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) (

It is helpful to position these knowledge bases in the spectrum of structured lexical resources. In particular, consider the various types of knowledge bases discussed by Pieterse and Kourie (2014) as “knowledge organization systems” (KOSs):

“In our classification of KOSs we consider the inherent structure of classifications. Classes of KOSs are characterized by the progressive addition of features that enhance the capabilities offered by these KOSs. The addition of these features contributes to their increased complexity. We call these classes of KOSs lists, taxonomies, lattices, thesauri and ontologies….Lists are found at the simplest end. The addition of hierarchical relationships in taxonomies enables more advanced retrieval processes which can make use of broader and narrower terms to improve recall and precision respectively. The next class of KOSs is lattices. These are hierarchical structures encoded as formal concept lattices. This formalization allows for computations that have the potential to improve the precision and recall when information is retrieved using these computations. A further enhancement offered by thesauri is the inclusion of semantic relationships beyond hierarchical relationships. These relationships are intended to contribute to the reasoning power that is to be built into applications that use thesauri. The final enhancement extends KOSs beyond controlled vocabularies to ontologies. This enhancement entails two things: firstly, the addition of inference rules in the form of meta-relations, constraints, conditional rules or production rules, and secondly, the formalization of its content.”

The five basic KOS types are, therefore:

  1. List: “A list is a linearly organized collection that contains items and their attributes.”
  2. Taxonomy: “A taxonomy is a hierarchically organized collection that contains items and their attributes.”
  3. Lattice: “A lattice is a hierarchically organized collection that contains items and their attributes in which these items and their attributes are formally presented as a concept lattice.”
  4. Thesaurus: “A thesaurus is a collection that contains items within a selected domain. A thesaurus allows for the specification of the attributes of items as well as the definition of equivalence, hierarchical, associative and/or contrast semantic relations between its items.”
  5. Ontology: “An ontology is an electronically stored collection that comprises a thesaurus combined with a set of inference rules.”

[V. Pieterse and D.G. Kourie, “Lists, Taxonomies, Lattices, Thesauri and Ontologies: Paving a pathway through a terminological jungle”, Knowledge Organization 41(2014) No. 3., pp. 217-229.]

Following this scheme, the classical print dictionary would be a KOS “list” of headwords (orthographic forms) and their associated attributes, typically the following:

orthographic headwords (and variants)
pronunciations (and variants)
parts of speech
inflections (and variants)
senses (ordered in some principled way)
labels (register and domain)
usage examples
morphological derivations (including part-of-speech labels and possibly other decorations)

but without any further semantic relations.

These further semantic relations are the first obvious contribution that KOSs such as the English WordNet and NIH Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) can supply.

The English WordNet ( is a broad-coverage English thesaurus-like KOS of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs organized into cognitive synonyms expressing a distinct concept (“synsets”). Each synset has an associated “gloss” (brief definition). Polysemous words are represented by the participation of a given lexeme in multiple synsets. Synsets are interrelated by semantic and lexical relations (decorated links). Most of these relations are within each of the WordNet part-of-speech-based “subnets”; there are relatively few relations between subnets.

The nine top-level WordNet noun synsets (“unique beginners”) are:


The relations between WordNet synsets are:

hypernym/hyponym: nouns; expresses an is-a relationship
Car hypernym Vehicle / Vehicle hyponym Car

instance hypernym/instance hyponym: nouns; expresses an is=a relationship involving instances
Honda instance hypernym Car / Car instance hyponym Honda

part holonym/part meronym: nouns; expresses a part-of relation
Tire part holonym Car / Car part meronym Tire

substance holonym/substance meronym: nouns; expresses part-of relation
Flour substance holonym Bread / Bread substance meronym Flour

member holonym/member meronym: nouns; expresses part-of relation
Senator member holonym Senate / Senate member meronym Senator

troponym: verbs; expresses specificity (similar to hypernymy in nouns)
Walk troponym Move

entailment: verbs; if the action described by A is true, then the action described by B must necessarily be true
Snore entailment Sleep

similar/antonym: adjectives and nouns; expresses polar opposites
Love antonym Hate

pertainym: adjectives and nouns; expresses a derivational relation
Criminal pertainym Crime

English WordNet data can be downloaded in several formats: an application-specific format (for Windows and Unix); “stand-off” files that provide additional semantic information not found in the application; and in Prolog format (

For more information on the English WordNet, see:

Fellbaum, Christiane (2005). “WordNet and wordnets.” In: Brown, Keith et al. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Second Edition, Oxford: Elsevier, 665-670.

The NIH Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), on the other hand, is a little lower on the KOS spectrum. It is a comprehensive taxonomically organized medical controlled vocabulary. MeSH terms are used principally for categorizing, searching and organizing the biomedical literature. For example, the Pubmed database and the MedlinePlus website both use MeSH codes.

MeSH differs from the English WordNet not only in being a domain-specific KOS, but also because it is organized as a “multiarchy”. All MeSH terms are placed within one or more term hierarchies. The top-level terms of these hierarchies are:

Anatomy [A]
Organisms [B]
Diseases [C]
Chemicals and Drugs [D]
Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment [E]
Psychiatry and Psychology [F]
Biological Sciences [G]
Physical Sciences [H]
Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena [I]
Technology and Food and Beverages [J]
Humanities [K]
Information Science [L]
Persons [M]
Health Care [N]
Publication Characteristics [V]
Geographic Locations [Z]

MeSH terms are densely decorated. Here are the ASCII records for “Exercise” and “Physical Fitness”:

MH = Physical Fitness
ENTRY = Fitness, Physical
MN = G11.427.685
MN = I03.450.642.845.054.800
MN = N01.400.545
FX = Exercise
FX = Exercise Test
FX = Exercise Therapy
FX = Physical Endurance
MH_TH = NLM (1966)
ST = T078
MS = The ability to carry out daily tasks and perform physical activities in a highly functional state, often as a result of physical conditioning.
MR = 20180116
DA = 19990101
DC = 1
DX = 19660101
UI = D010809

MH = Exercise
PRINT ENTRY = Aerobic Exercise|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Aerobic|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Isometric|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Physical|T040|T056|NON|EQV|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Isometric Exercise|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Physical Activity|T040|T056|NON|EQV|NLM (2003)|020128|abbcdef
ENTRY = Acute Exercise|T040|NON|NRW|NLM (2017)|160325|abcdef
ENTRY = Exercise Training|T040|NON|REL|NLM (2017)|160526|abcdef
ENTRY = Activities, Physical
ENTRY = Activity, Physical
ENTRY = Acute Exercises
ENTRY = Aerobic Exercises
ENTRY = Exercise Trainings
ENTRY = Exercise, Acute
ENTRY = Exercises
ENTRY = Exercises, Acute
ENTRY = Exercises, Aerobic
ENTRY = Exercises, Isometric
ENTRY = Exercises, Physical
ENTRY = Isometric Exercises
ENTRY = Physical Activities
ENTRY = Physical Exercise
ENTRY = Physical Exercises
ENTRY = Training, Exercise
ENTRY = Trainings, Exercise
MN = G11.427.410.698.277
MN = I03.350
FX = Exercise Movement Techniques
FX = Exercise Therapy
FX = Physical Exertion
FX = Physical Fitness
FX = Sports
MH_TH = NLM (1989)
ST = T040
ST = T056
AN = restrict to humans: for animals use PHYSICAL CONDITIONING, ANIMAL; EXERCISE THERAPY & EXERCISE TEST are also available; includes body building unless article specifies WEIGHT LIFTING; do not confuse with PHYSICAL EXERTION
PI = Exertion (1966-1988)
PI = Physical Fitness (1966-1988)
MS = Physical activity which is usually regular and done with the intention of improving or maintaining PHYSICAL FITNESS or HEALTH. Contrast with PHYSICAL EXERTION which is concerned largely with the physiologic and metabolic response to energy expenditure.
PM = 89; was see under EXERTION & SPORTS 1963-74; EXERCISE, ISOMETRIC was see under EXERTION 1977-83, was see ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION 1984-88; EXERCISE, PHYSICAL was see EXERTION 1976-88
HN = 89; was see under EXERTION & SPORTS 1963-74; EXERCISE, ISOMETRIC was see under EXERTION 1977-83, was see ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION 1984-88; EXERCISE, PHYSICAL was see EXERTION 1976-88
MR = 20160630
DA = 19880608
DC = 1
DX = 19890101
UI = D015444

For reference, here are the values of MeSH field codes:

AN: Annotation
AQ: Allowable Topic Classifier
CATSH: Cataloging Sub-Heading
CX: Consider Also Cross-Reference
DA: Date of Entry
DC: Descriptor Class
DE: Descriptor Entry Version
DQ: Date Qualifier Established
DS: Descriptor Short Version
DX: Date Descriptor Established
EC: Entry Combination
ENTRY: Non-Print Entry Term
FR: Frequency
FX: Forward Cross-Reference
HM: Heading Mapped-To
HN: History Note
II: Indexing Information
MH: MeSH Heading
MH_TH: MeSH Heading Thesaurus ID
MN: MeSH Tree Number
MR: Major Revision Date
MS: MeSH Scope Note
N1: Chemical Abstracts
NM: Name of Substance
NM_TH: NM Thesaurus ID
NO: Note
OL: Online Note
PA: Pharmacological Action
PI: Previous Indexing
PM: Public MeSH Note
QA: Qualifier Abbreviation
QE: Qualifier Entry Version
QS: Qualifier Short Version
QT: Qualifier Type
QX: Qualifier Cross-Reference
PRINT: Print Entry Term
RECTYPE: Record Type
RH: Running Head
RN: Registry Number
RR: Related Registry Number/EC Number/UNII Code
SH: Subheading Qualifier Name
SO: Source
ST: Semantic Type
SY: Synonym
TN: Tree Node Allowed
UI: Unique Identifier

See MeSH XML Data Elements (

These entries can be presented in a more readable format:

MeSH entry for “Exercise” (

1: Exercise
Physical activity which is usually regular and done with the intention of
improving or maintaining PHYSICAL FITNESS or HEALTH. Contrast with PHYSICAL
EXERTION which is concerned largely with the physiologic and metabolic response
to energy expenditure.
Year introduced: 1989

adverse effects
anatomy and histology
drug effects
legislation and jurisprudence
organization and administration
statistics and numerical data
therapeutic use

Tree Number(s): G11.427.410.698.277, I03.350
Entry Terms:
Physical Activity
Activities, Physical
Activity, Physical
Physical Activities
Exercise, Physical
Exercises, Physical
Physical Exercise
Physical Exercises
Acute Exercise
Acute Exercises
Exercise, Acute
Exercises, Acute
Exercise, Isometric
Exercises, Isometric
Isometric Exercises
Isometric Exercise
Exercise, Aerobic
Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic Exercises
Exercises, Aerobic
Exercise Training
Exercise Trainings
Training, Exercise
Trainings, Exercise

Previous Indexing:
Exertion (1966-1988)
Physical Fitness (1966-1988)

See Also:
Exercise Therapy
Physical Exertion
Physical Fitness
Exercise Movement Techniques

All MeSH Categories
    Phenomena and Processes Category
        Musculoskeletal and Neural Physiological Phenomena
            Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
                    Motor Activity
                            Cool-Down Exercise
                            Muscle Stretching Exercises
                            Physical Conditioning, Animal
                            Physical Conditioning, Human
                                Circuit-Based Exercise
                                Endurance Training
                                High-Intensity Interval Training
                                Plyometric Exercise
                                Resistance Training
                                Stair Climbing
                            Warm-Up Exercise

All MeSH Categories
    Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena Category
        Human Activities
                Cool-Down Exercise
                Muscle Stretching Exercises
                Physical Conditioning, Human
                    Circuit-Based Exercise
                    Endurance Training
                    High-Intensity Interval Training
                    Plyometric Exercise
                    Resistance Training
                    Stair Climbing
                Warm-Up Exercise

MeSH Entry for “Physical Fitness”

1: Physical Fitness
The ability to carry out daily tasks and perform physical activities in a highly functional state, often as a result of physical conditioning.

drug effects
legislation and jurisprudence
organization and administration

Tree Number(s): G11.427.685, I03.450.642.845.054.800, N01.400.545
Entry Terms:
Fitness, Physical

See Also:
Exercise Test
Exercise Therapy
Physical Endurance

All MeSH Categories
    Phenomena and Processes Category
        Musculoskeletal and Neural Physiological Phenomena
            Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
                Physical Fitness
                    Cardiorespiratory Fitness

All MeSH Categories
    Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena Category
        Human Activities
            Leisure Activities
                        Athletic Performance
                            Physical Fitness
                                Cardiorespiratory Fitness

All MeSH Categories
    Health Care Category
        Population Characteristics
                Physical Fitness
                    Cardiorespiratory Fitness
                    Physical Functional Performance
                        Gait Analysis

MeSH data are available in ASCII, XML, Marc 21 and RDF formats. MeSH codes are used to classify entries in the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedLinePlus medical website (; and by Pubmed
( ; for annotating over 29 million biomedical articles.

Example Pubmed Entry in MEDLINE format with MeSH Headings (MH) (

PMID- 19760431
DCOM- 20100430
LR – 20181113
IS – 1439-6327 (Electronic)
IS – 1439-6319 (Linking)
VI – 108
IP – 1
DP – 2010 Jan
TI – The effects of low-intensity resistance training with vascular restriction on leg muscle strength in older men.
PG – 147-55
LID – 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5 [doi]
AB – The purpose of this study was to investigate and compare the effects of two types of resistance training protocols on the adaptation of skeletal muscle strength in older men. Thirty-seven healthy male subjects (50-64 years) participated in this study. Subjects were assigned to one of three groups: high-intensity (80% 1-RM) resistance training (RT80); low-intensity (20% 1-RM) resistance training with vascular restriction (VR-RT20); and a control group (CON) that performed no exercise. Subjects in both exercise groups performed three upper body (at 80% 1-RM) and two lower body exercises either with (20% 1-RM) or without (80% 1-RM) vascular restriction three times a week for 6 weeks. As expected, the RT80 and VR-RT20 groups had significantly (p < 0.01) greater strength increases in all upper body and leg press exercises compared with CON, however, absolute strength gains for the RT80 and VR-RT20 groups were similar (p > 0.05). It should be noted that the percentage increase in leg extension strength for the RT80 group was significantly greater than that for both the VR-RT20 (p < 0.05) and CON groups (p < 0.01), while the percentage increase in leg extension strength for the VR-RT20 group was significantly (p < 0.01) greater than that for the CON. The findings suggested that leg muscle strength improves with the low-load vascular restriction training and the VR-RT20 training protocol was almost as effective as the RT80 training protocol for increasing muscular strength in older men.
FAU – Karabulut, Murat
AU – Karabulut M
AD – Department of Health and Human Performance, University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, Brownsville, TX 78520, USA.
FAU – Abe, Takashi
AU – Abe T
FAU – Sato, Yoshiaki
AU – Sato Y
FAU – Bemben, Michael G
AU – Bemben MG
LA – eng
PT – Journal Article
DEP – 20090918
PL – Germany
TA – Eur J Appl Physiol
JT – European journal of applied physiology
JID – 100954790
MH – Adaptation, Physiological/physiology MH – Blood Flow Velocity MH – Blood Pressure MH – Blood Vessels/physiology
MH – Body Height/physiology
MH – Contraindications
MH – Exercise/physiology MH – Humans MH – Leg/physiology MH – Male MH – Middle Aged MH – Muscle Contraction/physiology
MH – Muscle Strength/*physiology
MH – Physical Endurance/physiology
MH – *Resistance Training
MH – Stress, Mechanical
MH – Weight Lifting/physiology
EDAT- 2009/09/18 06:00
MHDA- 2010/05/01 06:00
CRDT- 2009/09/18 06:00
PHST- 2009/09/10 00:00 [accepted]
PHST- 2009/09/18 06:00 [entrez]
PHST- 2009/09/18 06:00 [pubmed]
PHST- 2010/05/01 06:00 [medline]
AID – 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5 [doi]
PST – ppublish
SO – Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jan;108(1):147-55. doi: 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5. Epub
2009 Sep 18.

The entry MedlinePlus “Exercise and Physical Fitness” entry is classified with the MeSH codes “Exercise” and “Physical Fitness” (

As can be seen from this brief overview, the English WordNet and MeSH have some interesting characteristics:

  • they offer types of lexical information (and ways of looking at lexical information) that deepen and complement the information found in standard dictionaries
  • they are formally structured
  • they are available in multiple standard computer-readable formats
  • they support and enable a range of computational functions such as text searching, semantic similarity and word-sense disambiguation
  • standard formats allow knowledge bases to link to and be incorporated in other structured data sources
  • formal structuring demands a disciplined lexicographic development and maintenance process

Given the computational and electronic future of lexicographic resources, these attributes will benefit traditional lexicography. Future lexicographic resources must serve multiple–computational and human–users. And data that cannot be linked or shared cannot and will not be used.


Thoughts about some dictionary makers and the profession

Cynthia Barnhart

Sometimes it was difficult to square the story-telling with the usually dignified, serious occupation of editing dictionaries. Generally speaking, my impression from conversation with other dictionary editors and from experience in the offices of Barnhart Books, the process of producing a dictionary was a serious matter: expensive, risky, deadline-driven, producing expected unexpected glitches and, once published, its reception—followed by loud silence. Such concerns notwithstanding, however, dictionary makers whom I have either known well (or simply met once or twice) have always impressed me with their enjoyment of curious collections of dictionary gossip and tales.

While thinking along these lines, a couple of chance remarks popped up in my memory inbox where they had been filed and forgotten for quite a while. The first was a comment that roughly summed me up when I was working in another office, that I wasn’t “at all like what we expected.” I don’t know what it really meant but am pretty sure it had more to do with my long association with Barnharts than with me. The second was a response to my lament about the current status of dictionaries generally, American ones particularly, bemoaning the effective loss of the position of editor-in-chief, with the result, as I saw it, that commercial dictionaries had become truly commercial, lesser and greater editors, demoted to a back-handed, inside-page staff list, arranged in descending order of experience, responsibilities and, presumably importance. At the top of the list is usually the corporate executive whose department is responsible for undertaking the dictionary project. From personal experience, I know that one seldom meets with any executive who has any specific knowledge of dictionaries, how they are produced or their histories. The position of editor-in-chief has been retitled chief editor, below the corporate luminaries, an indicator that the editor-in-chief is just another job category. To me, this is a sign that the dictionary is relegated to the backlist, well before it has become a book. But the answer made to my lament about the need for an editor-in-chief—or, indeed, my assumption that such a person is either desirable or necessary or even exists—simply exposed my quaint opinions. 

Naturally my mind wandered further to thinking about those who planned a dictionary project and then led, dragged, cajoled a staff to complete it, a process familiar to anyone who has begun to bog down about the letter L—halfway through, about the time when the initial excitement of making the book has definitely dampened, when the reality of the very long editorial slog from A to Z has become quite clear. When doing a dictionary, who has failed to dread the arrival of the letter S?

Nonetheless, a roster of people who have persevered and who have shaped a generous output of solid, American dictionaries is easily put together. To remind myself that all dictionaries and their editors are indebted to predecessors, it almost goes without saying that any list of notable editors is only a selection. I have chosen to group (roughly) these American dictionary makers by the specific ideas that animated them, beyond and apart from their interest in the vocabulary their dictionaries encompassed. Some were proselytizers, others nationalists, or recent revolutionaries, committed Christians, who, later, influenced by developments in the scientific study of language, brought to their editorial plans a differently informed view of language, usage and meaning. One way or another, however, and regardless of the time in which they worked, these American dictionary makers were somewhat nationalistic. My own view is that the dictionary makers of earlier days appreciated the difference between British and American English, and were of the opinion that American English was an equal of its British progenitor (notwithstanding Worcester’s desire to encourage conformity between the two languages), this despite the sometimes condescending views of the British toward the American language. No doubt my experiences go further back than many others’, but as a student I did not question the implied superiority of British English to its American cousin; I began to question my acceptance of that view however, having read for a number of years, as an undergraduate and young adult, the London Times for Barnhart Books. It was, as they say, revealing.

Noah Webster and Joseph Worcester remain inextricably woven into the fabric of American dictionaries. Both were Christian nationalists. Worcester’s Compendious Dictionary of American English (1806) was described as the first “truly American” dictionary; boldly described as a reference uniquely suited to the American experiment, his later dictionary, A Dictionary of the English Language, was a favorite of writers, praised by Oliver Wendell Holmes and Edward Evertt Hale who exhaled relief with his comment, “We have at last a good dictionary.” Worcester is generally regarded as the best early American lexicographer, although he was not particularly attached to American English, preferring British forms to American, appealing to those Americans who were, shall we say, aspirational Brits. However, staking a clear claim to the worth of the American idiom, Noah Webster edited the 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language. He was an unabashedly Christian dictionary maker who drew heavily on the bible for citations. He described his dictionary as “a work of great importance for modern readers who care about traditional values.” He also remarked that “the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to serve the rights and privileges of a free people.”  (So much for scholarly dispassion.)

One needs to remember that less than fifty years had elapsed since the end of the Revolution and the founding of this still-shaky nation, more than a century before World Wars I and II and the eras of turmoil that yielded decidedly different points of view, especially of language, and the establishment of linguistics as its science. However, shifts of language scholarship were already gathering momentum during the nineteenth century, perhaps best typified by the preference for the (new) science of linguistics, effectively marking the abandonment of philology. Still, dictionaries being what they are, it was a slow process to incorporate these shifts into the dictionary but however slow, it was happening.

The Christian faith, though, remained a major influence during this time. Isaac F. Funk was a Lutheran, a spiritualist, a prohibitionist, a reformer who brought his missionary zeal into his editorial office and produced the (1893) Standard Dictionary of the English Language and established the very successful publishing company Funk and Wagnalls with Adam Wagnalls who, like Funk, left religion for publishing.

A “newer man” was William Dwight Whitney, who did not abandon the academy for the editorial office. He used his scholarship and reputation as an outstanding philologist to the benefit of his editorial design for the Century Dictionary. Benjamin E. Smith was the managing editor of the Century who no doubt was responsible for actually getting the job done and later became editor of volumes 9 and 10, the Century Cyclopedia of Names, and a long list of other Century Company references. The Century Dictionary remains one of the most admired of American dictionaries whose chief editor, Whitney, stood by his work and his staff despite charges of plagiarism that were issued by Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary group who were, perhaps, nervous about the appearance of the Century.

Criticism can be hard to take, especially because interest in our language is not confined to editors and scholars: One only has to remember that Merriam-Webster claims there are some 650,000 subscribers to their “Word of the Day”. Some dictionary editors are or were both professional and idiosyncratic—in addition to being confident, sturdy enough to be able to withstand sometimes nasty personal criticism, as if the editor were responsible for the language.

Among those who followed an unconventionally varied career path to dictionary work was William Morris, first editor of the American Heritage Dictionary. Originally an editor and word columnist at the New York Times—and having served in the merchant marine during World War II— his passion was the quality of written language, and, no surprise, his American Heritage Dictionary emphasized “good” usage but, unusually, drew on the opinions of a panel of writers to advise him. Over the years, the American Heritage remains a strong favorite of English usage admirers, although over time and with multiple revisions that reflect shifting attitudes about what is acceptable and unacceptable in language, the dictionary’s usage notes can appear unfocused or at least equivocating, like someone who wants to be liked despite holding opinions that might cause disagreement—or heaven forefend, be wrong. Morris was certainly sturdy enough to survive the detour around traditional dictionary practice with the emphatype edition of the American Heritage. So did the American College Dictionary and Random House whose management had a sudden onset of spasms when the emphatype edition appeared, designed to be so useful to the dictionary user that all traditional competition would melt away; as we know, that innovation was forced into early retirement, but American Heritage became a successful brand and is still on the market. Ironically, it was the American College Dictionary that was retired early; that singular dictionary was supplanted by later Random House dictionaries, a business decision taken by the publisher who developed a keen dislike for Clarence Barnhart, its editor. A succession of editors have maintained the American Heritage over its lifetime and while the role and composition of the usage panel has changed somewhat, the dictionary is still recognized for its emphasis on usage.

If Morris brought an unconventional resume to his position as a dictionary maker, David Guralnik definitely did not; he was a professional editor, another son of Ohio who produced very solid dictionary work, from 1948-1985 editor-in-chief of New World dictionaries, responsible for Websters New World Dictionary. He was unafraid to act on his opinions of what a dictionary should and should not be burdened with: many widely used obscenities, vulgarities and obvious racial slurs were omitted from the entry lists. These last, Guralnik thought, were fading from use; alas, they seem to have an odds-defying long life. His legacy of dictionaries produced for World Publishing was very successful, his decision to present American English as it is used found an accepting and grateful following of students and writers as well as the New World Dictionary’s adoption as the official dictionary for the AP, UPI, Wall Street Journal and other news organizations.

Katherine B. Wood, more or less de facto editor of the Century Cyclopedia of Names, is not perhaps the first name to come to mind as a dictionary maker. The quality of her work and her nuanced view of how to define meaning and what to include in a dictionary, however, is evident in her analysis and careful reading on the tear sheets of the New English Dictionary (the Century), on every page, notes R.K. Barnhart in his 1996 article “Aftermath” (of the Century), but stop “abruptly” at the letter K. They include many comments for the benefit of Benjamin Smith when the Century Dictionary was in preparation. Wood’s comments are in the Barnhart files, now housed with the Barnhart archive at Indiana University, and so impressed Barnhart that he wrote, “[She was] one of those infrequently found gems of the editorial world around whom a managing editor of a great editorial project builds a staff.”  Unusually, her stellar work was recognized by the Century management as she continued to play a significant role as an editor of the Century Dictionary and the Century Cyclopedia of Names.

Nowadays it is hard to know who runs the show at the various dictionary houses, presumably not because solid editors are a lost tribe, but because the business model now fashionable does not encourage individual entrepreneurship within the editorial office. As this rather superficial selection from the ranks of dictionary makers shows, those who have engaged in innovative work are plentiful and interesting in their own right. That they managed to sell their innovations to the publisher’s management attests to their resourcefulness. Publishers naturally think in terms of sales and costs, and the expensive dictionary, with its long history of success, tends to encourage conservative attitudes among accountants and decision makers. The editor who is a dictionary maker contracted as an independent author to produce a dictionary for a publisher is less well armed, vulnerable to the ultimate corporate weapon: the lawsuit charging plagiarism.  While dictionary editors suffer from a chronic feeling of oppression, they nonetheless manage to prevail so that they succeed in stamping their dictionaries with their individual editorial identities and generally have lived to tell the tale.

Personally I find dictionary people interesting and cherish little bits about them I have learned while stumbling around the dictionary universe. But rather than retailing tales or attempting to explain why someone would spend an entire career making sense of everyone’s language within a specific language community, I believe it is quite enough that dictionary makers find the work fulfilling. I am tempted, though, to mention that the dictionary maker can sometimes fall victim to his or her aspirations, as when Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large describes the company’s editors as “erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate.” A bit over the top in my experience. Only an occupant of the office that traces its descent back to old Noah could so confidently put the cart before the horse, or in today’s lingo, that’s so how it doesn’t work.


Two Online Collections, Green’s Dictionary of Slang and the LEME

David Vancil

I learned as others who follow DSNA’s Facebook page that two important online resources, which previously required a paid subscription to use fully, are now free. Since they are dependent on the contents of lexicons and related material, I thought I would mention them again and add a few descriptive remarks members of the society may find useful.

Jonathon Green (Photo credit: Gabriel Green)

As of October 18, 2018, Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Slang has been made available free for research into slang terminology. Not only is it a scholarly resource, but casual word mavens will enjoy simply browsing through it as recreation. I certainly found it great fun. It should be noted the web-based resource is based on and an expansion of his widely hailed massive multivolume work published in 2010. I recall it listed at around $500, which would have put it out of reach of most individuals and many institutions.

Almost as soon as the book version appeared, Green, the man behind the book and many others, set about creating a searchable database version of the book. The database currently contains more than 55,000 headwords and over 640,000 citations. Of course, there’s more to this exciting resource, but I won’t go into detail here. As of this writing, the online edition has been updated seven times in just two years.

Not that much has been said about the collection of print material that led to the book and subsequent database. I looked through the bibliography of sources, which is broken down by each letter of the alphabet. Included in the A’s are anonymous works, and it must be said, there are a few quirky entries. Nonetheless, the extent of the entries is massive, constituting hundreds of citations entered under each letter of the alphabet. This constitutes a collection of works, which whether held together or distributed, is undoubtedly the most extensive collection of slang of its kind. All one can do is say, “Wow!”

As for the search engine and the results, it’s truly impressive. But, as Green has indicated in his own remarks on the DSNA Facebook page, there’s a lot left to do. And given the nature of language, this will always be the case.

Ian Lancashire (Photo credit: Anne Lancashire)

Housed at the University of Toronto under the auspices of the Press, the second resource I want to mention is Lexicons of Early Modern English, which continues since its inception under the continuing and enthusiastic leadership of Ian Lancashire. Begun some years ago, I can remember accessing it on an IBM clone and enthusiastically searching through a handful of useful titles in the database known as EMEDD that Ian initially released in 1996, followed by what is called LEME 1.0 in 2006, which focused on lexicons and related works published from 1475 through 1625 with “500,000 word entries of 150 texts.” Who could have dreamed that with its relaunch on October 1, 2018, as LEME 2.0, the database now includes more than 250 analyzed texts with a date range which has expanded to include Samuel Johnson 1755 two-volume dictionary.

By the way, these 250 works constitute under 20% of the total number of texts identified for inclusion in this massive database, which allows for contextual searching and provides the user with an opportunity to view results as they originally appeared. Indeed, the search possibilities are somewhat staggering, and as Ian has indicated, they are also undergoing improvements, which will soon allow users to download texts in plain text or TEI.

Another undertaking is a major lemmatization project which is in the works. Ian reminded me that the source texts have been made available in many instances through EEBO TCP (Early English Books Online Text Creation Project). LEME is one of many entities involved in this important scholarly enterprise.

Ian, who I hope doesn’t mind my mentioning he is 75, has been focusing primarily on the LEME since 2012, putting aside previous duties while working week in and week out over the last six years. Meanwhile, he continues to bring individuals with interest in the field onboard. Many of them, in fact, are receiving training which they’ll be able to use in similar projects. As for himself, Ian is at work, in his own words, “on a book that discusses what we can discover about lexis and language from dictionaries and glossaries 1475 to 1625.”

Both Jonathon Green and Ian Lancashire are doing the hard work of making data gleaned from relevant historical lexicographical and other germane sources available to researchers and word lovers alike. One can learn easily how they have gone about creating these indispensable resources on their websites. Rather than go into detail, which most readers will not find particularly useful about particular titles, search strategies, software or programming, and similar matters, I suggest that interested parties visit the respective websites. Green’s Dictionary of Slang dictionary is at The LEME, under the leadership of Ian, may be found at Have a look-see. You’ll find it’s worthwhile.


“Advanced Linguistics: Introduction to Lexicography” at Buffalo State College

By Lisa Berglund, Professor of English

The English Department at Buffalo State College has about 30 students in our Master’s program: half are earning degrees in secondary education, a handful plan to apply to PhD programs in literature or culture studies, and the rest are exploring, diverting their minds from the present, or reluctant to leave the security of school. Most students who enroll in “Introduction to Lexicography” do so because it fits their schedules. They have no preconceptions about the course (although they have a lot of preconceptions about dictionaries). There’s usually an OED fan, and someone who thinks dictionaries are cool or who “loves words.” Their course surveys always include variations on “I had no idea how we were going to spend 14 weeks talking about dictionaries” and “This course should be taught more often.”

 In the last DNSA Newsletter, Walt Hakala talked about his exciting freshman seminar at the University at Buffalo, noting that because the class was required, he had the chance to design a course that might not otherwise be offered. Few college English or language departments would officially add a course on lexicography to the catalog; it is up to enterprising professors to find places to introduce dictionaries to the curriculum. In the 1970s and 1980s, Buffalo State had a huge linguistics faculty; they have all retired but “Advanced Linguistics” remains in the catalog. It hasn’t been revised for a half century (seriously!), and the catalog description reads in its entirety: “special topics in linguistics.”  Thus, while Walt had to ingeniously shape his course to fulfill the somewhat fantastic learning outcomes of UB’s freshman program, I only needed to ensure that “Advanced Linguistics” continues to count toward our MA distribution requirements. I have taught the course three times, most recently in spring 2018.

On my syllabus, the course description is simply: To understand the construction, history and cultural role of dictionaries, focusing on English-language lexicography. As most of my students are literature majors, I deliberately do not teach “literary works” (e.g. The Professor and the Madman) that they would find comfortable; I want the class to be bracingly defamiliarizing. The two course texts are Sidney Landau’s Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography (Cambridge UP, 2nd ed.), and Dictionaries: The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, which my students can access through Buffalo State’s subscription to Project Muse. Landau’s book was last revised in 2001, so its discussion of online lexicography is dated, but the book is witty, lucid, and rigorous. It is out of print, but used copies are generally available. My own field of research is 18th and early 19th century book history, and I therefore include a substantial unit on the history of lexicography.

I start the first class by distributing and then discussing responses to the following questionnaire:

  • What print dictionaries do you own (if any)?
  • What dictionary do you use the most (or do you care)? Do you use online dictionaries? Which do you prefer, online or print formats?
  • What is your most common reason for consulting a dictionary? (check spelling, check meaning, check pronunciation, find a synonym, other).
  • When did you last consult a dictionary (if you remember)? What was the word you wanted?
  • Have you ever read a dictionary (as if it were a “regular” book)? Under what circumstances?
  • Have you ever used a dictionary to win a bet? Have you ever consulted a dictionary while playing Scrabble or another game?
  • Were you ever given a dictionary as a present or a school prize?
  • List as many dictionaries as you can think of, by name.
  • Write down the first five words you think of when you think of dictionaries.

The first five weeks of the course are spent on practical lexicography, reading most of Landau’s book, and closely examining a range of 20th century English language dictionaries, in physical and online formats (about 40 different dictionaries). We then spend five weeks studying important individual dictionaries: Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755); Webster’s“Blue Back” Speller (1782) and American Dictionary of the English Language (1828); the Oxford English Dictionary (1884- ); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961); Piozzi’s British Synonymy (1794); and Roget’s A Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (1852). We look at physical copies of all these dictionaries; I trundle in for inspection my MW3 dictionary stand and my two-volume edition of OED complete with the magnifying glass. Along with the front matter and sample entries for each dictionary, I assign supplemental readings, such as Johnson’s Letter to Chesterfield; Trench, “Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries”; Murray, “Appeal for Readers”; Follett, “Sabotage in Springfield,” The Atlantic Monthly (1962); and Macdonald, “The String Untuned,” The New Yorker (1962).

The last part of the course examines topics in contemporary lexicography, principally through articles from DSNA’s journal Dictionaries and the popular press. This year we studied: Obscenity and slang: Lynda Mugglestone, “‘Decent Reticence’: Coarseness, Contraception, and the First Edition of the OED” (Dictionaries 2007: 1-22); Ronald R. Butters, “’We didn’t realize that lite beer was supposed to suck!’: The Putative Vulgarity of ‘X Sucks’ in American English” (Dictionaries 2001: 130-144); Kory Stamper, “Down the ‘Shithole’: Why Lexicographers Need your Profanity” (harmless drudgery, 11 January 2018;; Labels: M. Lynne Murphy, “Defining Racial Labels: Problems and Promise in American Dictionaries (Dictionaries 1991: 43-64); David A. Jost and Allen C. Crocker, “The Handling of Down Syndrome and Related Terms in Modern Dictionaries” (Dictionaries 1987: 97-109); Joseph Pickett, “Considered and Regarded: Indicators of Belief and Doubt in Dictionary Definitions” (Dictionaries 2007: 48-68); A. J. Meier, “Hey Lady” (Dictionaries 1996: 180-197); and Dictionaries and the courts: Jenn Abelson, “Arguments Spread Thick,” The Boston Globe (2006) AKA “A Burrito is not a Sandwich”; Orin Hargraves, “Help for Harried Justices,” Visual Thesaurus Language Lounge 1 August 2017; Philip A. Rubin, “War of the Words: How Courts Can Use Dictionaries in Accordance with Textualist Principles” (Duke Law Review 2010, 167-206). I hope to add a unit on “Learner Dictionaries.”

Students submit written commentaries on each week’s reading, which I use in leading discussion. Fifty percent of the course grade is based on the commentaries and participation. Each student also prepares an original lexicon of family, work or hobby terminology; there’s a vocabulary test and a final essay exam. Other activities were a guest lecture from Walt Hakala, who discussed his research for Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia (Columbia UP, 2016), and a visit to our Special Collections Department to examine blueback spellers and early dictionaries from the Kempke-Root Textbook Collection.

The essay questions for my final exam summarize the issues we cover and the connections that I hope my students will make:

            1. Analyze the role of the dictionary in forging or reflecting values of national identity, cultural unity or exclusivity, and/or social class or status. You may quote from any materials assigned during this course, but you must discuss quotations from at least three of the following lexicographers: Johnson, Webster, Trench, Murray, Gove, Piozzi, Roget, Stamper.

            2. According to B.T.S. Atkins, “The dictionary must function as a successful act of communication between the compiler who wrote it and the person consulting it. It is a tool for the reader to use. If the tool does not work when used intelligently, then it is the toolmaker’s fault, not the user’s.” Taking Atkins’ comment as a starting point, write an essay in which you discuss the relationship of the dictionary compiler and the dictionary user. Examine the reasonable and unreasonable goals and expectations of both lexicographers and dictionary users, and the role of each in shaping the place of the lexicon in our society. You may, but need not, concentrate on a specific group of users (e.g., children, second language learners, college students, Americans, women, &c.). You may, but need not, focus on a single dictionary, dictionary format, or lexicographer.

3. Choose one topic from list A and one from list B and write an essay commenting on how the intersection of the two affects lexicography today and/or may shape lexicography in the future. A: corpus, search engines, social media, crowd-sourcing, slang; B: labels, illustrative quotations, front matter, usage.

This course is always splendid and exciting to teach. Because a syllabus, however promising, cannot convey all that a class may accomplish, I’ll conclude this essay by sharing excerpts from students’ work: the last passage is from the final exam, and the first two are from informal commentaries where the prompt was, “What is the most interesting, useful or troubling thing you have learned about lexicography this semester?”

Jill B: [I]t did make me think, particularly [with regard] to the Down syndrome and Mongolism definitions, whether dictionaries might be making a turn toward entries which say all and nothing at the same time. I do not remember exactly which dictionary it was …but the definition of Down syndrome was so sanitized that if you had no preconceived idea what or who a person with that condition was you might not be able to understand it at all from the definition. The same went for the entries related to disease. I wonder if in this current climate of focus on not offending that we might [get] dictionaries defining certain items very similar to Dr. Johnson’s choice for cow and its “a beast well known” definition. Granted, the context behind then and now was different, however, there is this element that lexicographers must be politically correct in their compiling of words as well in order not to be embroiled in controversary. Will sanitation of entries become a problem for the future of lexicography? But then again, will online dictionaries be engaged in the same controversary as much as, say, the MW3 had because there is less consideration of the whole text as opposed to one entry? And will the ability to change entries easily on the fly to stave off certain contentious words and entries? Or will it be the ability to keep up with the modern fast paced changing connotation of words? Will dictionaries always be a step behind?

Connor D.: Another thing to consider is the Internet and how pivotal it is in the history of lexicography. I [want] to consider something interesting that we talked about at the end of last class—the accessibility of online dictionaries as technological developments continue to be made. It’s vitally important to understand that while many privileges become available, some privileges may be closed off. Also, it asks a larger question: how should the Internet function economically? This also suggests that the central theme of lexicography may have shifted from linguistic development to language accessibility.

Felicia D:  Stamper writes, ‘Censoring out profanity–especially in news–presents a false reality.’ This, in regards to slang words, profane or not, exhibits how important it is for lexicographers to compile dictionaries relevant to the way we speak, write, express ourselves. In the year 2030, we may be consorting with A.I. on a romantic level and Lil Uzi Vert may be  America’s newest president. If we cannot understand his slang, his language, how will we communicate that in strongly-worded e-mails to the White House? If we are on a date with a sexy robot and they try explaining the word “covfefe” with an illustrative quotation, composed by former President Trump, will we be offended and leave?


Progress report for Mixed Blessings: The Dictionary of Blended Religion

Tim Stewart

Key words:

computers in lexicography

short-term historical lexicography

portmanteau words


specialized dictionaries

My dictionary project turns eight years old this year, and I’m pleased to share a progress report with the Society. My last mention of the project in the newsletter was three years ago when, in a fit of irrational exuberance, I supplied David Jost with the following news item: “Tim Stewart announces the imminent completion of his Dictionary of Blended Denominations, which is due to come out this year” [1]. Well, it’s spring 2019, and the book’s still not finished. The least I can do is pull back the curtain and share a little about what’s been done so far.

The dictionary, now titled Mixed Blessings (or MB for short), is a comprehensive collection of 1,500 words I call “blended-religion words” that were formed by combining the names of two or more religions or religious denominations. The vast majority of these blended-religion words are portmanteau words such as bapticostal, bujew, chrislam, conservadox, episcopagan, fundagelical, jubu, lutepisc, mennocostal, methobapticostal, jewnitarian, jewitch, quagan, and sushi. A few dozen blended-religion words are compound words employing a bound morpheme such as anglo-catholic, bapto-catholic, islamo-christian, and judeo-christian.

MB is a historical dictionary, and I chose this genre for several reasons:

• First off, I knew readers would need some convincing that these blends are real words and not just funny combinations I made up for satirical purposes, so MB’s citation paragraphs with bibliographical details are proof to the skeptics that the words are circulating out there in the real world.

• I wanted to assure readers that the definitions are based on how people actually use the words and aren’t naïvely based just on etymology, so the citation paragraph for every sense gives credibility to the definition.

• I wanted the dictionary to be a jumping-off point for readers who have a personal interest in learning about hybrid religious beliefs and practices (sometimes also referred to as “multiple-religious belonging” in the sociological and counseling literature). Thus the citations are detailed enough to easily send readers on to the books, articles, blogs, and websites the quotations came from, so readers can discover first-hand accounts and expert opinions and even reach out to like-minded individuals and communities.

• I think historical dictionaries as a genre are an intriguing nexus of challenges, from the traditional feats of compiling the word list and collecting and selecting citations to the modern-day hurdles of database management, typography, and page composition.

• Finally, my business plan for the MB project forecasts that academic libraries will be the primary market, and I’m banking on the idea that the historical dictionary format will give the dictionary greater weight in terms of authority and value. The fact that all these citation paragraphs pump up the page count doesn’t hurt either.

From reading other progress reports of dictionaries over the years, I can say that the lexicographical work on MB has proceeded much like it does for any other historical dictionary. I love that wonderful quote by Jesse Sheidlower from his semi-recent New Yorker article: “There’s nothing terribly mysterious about the process of writing a dictionary. You figure out what you want to include, research it, and then write it up” [2]. So instead of rehearsing all-too familiar processes, steps, and tasks, I will focus on an aspect of MB that I think sets it apart from other dictionaries, and that is my method of building the word list.

First, some background. In early 2011, before I had seen or heard my first blended-religion word, I was blogging regularly about Christian buzzwords and Christian language trends at my website Dictionary of Christianese, and I was getting some decent traffic (10K visitors/month) and even some press attention in the form of radio and magazine interviews (including PRI’s “The World in Words” and Christianity Today). The public attention was prodding me to discover even more linguistic phenomena to blog about, so I was doing a lot of reading and skimming of Christian literature such as periodicals, books, and blogs, looking for prospective blog topics and evidence of trends.

It was in the course of this reading that I stumbled across blended-religion words. Unsurprisingly, the first ones I saw were Christian blends. I still have a list of the first 19 of these words I found. By March 2011 I had seen: bapticostal, baptigelical, calvminian, cathodox, evangecostal, fundagelical, pentegelical, presbycatholic, and presbycostal, and also (these next ones are grouped together, since they hail from the same short-lived renewal movement called “the emerging church”) agmergent, anglimergent, baptimergent, emergematic, evangemergent, luthermergent, methodomergent, pentemergent, presbymergent, and reformergent.

My small yet growing collection of what I was terming “blended-denomination words” was rapidly becoming a distraction from my usual blogging duties. Partly it was these words’ exquisite portmanteau morphology. (Portmanteaus are my favorite type of word formation.) But there was something else too. Religion sometimes gets characterized as being somber and even stuffy, and I felt that these blend words were evidence of an underappreciated creative linguistic impulse that was rattling around the hallowed halls. During 2011, my posting frequency on the Dictionary of Christianese blog ground to a halt as I retooled my research and reading habits to find more denomination blends.

But I faced a problem. How could I find more of these blend words? How does one go about finding more examples of such a specific set of words?

My first strategy was to get creative with database queries and Web searches. I searched for likely collocations such as “blend,” “dual,” “mixed,” “grew up,” “switched,” “different denomination,” and so on. That uncovered a few more words, but researching in this way was tedious and infrequently successful.

Then I had an aha moment. I realized that the blend words I was looking for were composed of bits and pieces of what was in truth a quite small set of source words—the names of Christian denominations (e.g., Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist) and Christian movements (e.g., charismatic, evangelical, fundamentalist). So why not start with the source words, combining them in a variety of ways, and then check which combinations seem to be attested in the real world? I felt like I was trading in my hook and line for a dragnet.

I wrote a JavaScript program that took a list of the first halves of the denomination names (e.g., Angli, Bapti, Catho, Funda, Evange, Luthe, Metho) and a list of the second halves (e.g., can, ist, olic, mentalist, gelical, eran, odist), matched them up, and printed a list of the blends. The results looked like Anglist, Anglolic, Anglimentalist, Baptican, Baptolic, etc. all the way through Metheran and beyond. (In a future paper I will go into technical detail about my implementation.)

I searched for these computed blend words using electronic databases and Web search engines to find evidence of actual use of these terms in print and online sources, and I found some!

Emboldened by my early success with this method, I updated the JavaScript program to subdivide the source words in a greater number of positions, taking into account the rules of English phonology. Whereas I had started with simply joining halves to halves, such as baptiterian and presbytist, I was ready to work with a much larger set of computed blend words such as bresbyterian, bapbyterian, bapterian, baptiterian, baptisterian, presbybaptist, presbaptist, presbytist, and presbyterist. When I would discover a denomination that I had overlooked or when I learned of a novel way of subdividing a source word, I updated the JavaScript program accordingly and produced a fresh list with all the newly computed blends.

Nearly all of these computed blends were spurious. The success rate on the searches was low, never exceeding 2%. But while the rate was low, it seemed inevitable that I would eventually traverse the entire possible search space. My method seemed guaranteed to lead to every blend word composed of two denominations. I also searched for combinations of three and four denominations, and all I will say about the thousands of those sesquipedalian computed monstrosities I googled for is that I became extremely cozy with Google’s captcha page and its puzzles to see whether I was indeed human.

Let’s fast-forward a few years. By early 2016 I felt that the dictionary had grown large enough that I could start thinking about publishing a dictionary. As part of investigating the feasibility of this venture, I searched online for information about lexicographers who had published their own dictionaries. In the course of a lot of googling and link-hopping, I discovered Orin Hargraves’s tidy corner of the Web and the virtual shingle he had hung out offering to perform expert reviews of dictionary projects. The offer seemed perfect for the stage I was at, so we corresponded over email and struck a bargain, and I sent him a rough draft of the dictionary. A couple of days later he emailed me a Word doc containing a page and a half of insightful criticism and useful recommendations touching on the overall design of the book as well as specific aspects and components of it. He offered to discuss his feedback with me over a Skype call, which I happily accepted. Orin was professional, knowledgeable, and amiable in our dealings, which made it easier to receive his several suggestions for ways the dictionary could be strengthened and improved. He was right on all counts, of course. My education in lexicography was self-directed and haphazard, and he had been doing it successfully for decades. Well, when life hands you a reality check, cash it and keep moving!

There was one comment of Orin’s that turned out to have a far greater impact than all his other suggestions combined. This comment changed the course of my project and has added years to its production schedule. He wrote in his Word doc (and I’m paraphrasing): “I see that you’ve limited your scope to Christian terms. What about the bujews?” My reaction was, “The bu-what-now?” I hadn’t ever heard the word bujew, so I was inclined to dismiss the suggestion out of hand. But I dutifully googled “bujew” and discovered that its linguistic footprint was at least as large as any of the biggest Christian blend words I had researched. How could I have not known about bujews?

As is probably obvious from the description of my method, I had been researching within a tightly sealed bubble! My list of source words were Christian denominations. My program computed Christian blend words based on those source words. My databases and search techniques were biased toward Christian publications and sources. It was humbling to look back and see how cordoned off my research was. Learning about bujew and all the other non-Christian blended-religion words out there became a powerful lesson for me in the importance of sharing your ongoing work with others so they can pull you out of your assumptions and push you into your blind spots.

After the shock wore off, it was swiftly replaced by a strong and unshakable conviction that I mustn’t omit these non-Christian religious blends from my project, even though it would mean starting a fresh avenue of research to discover these new blends and collect citations and write definitions for them. The broader scope of the project also necessitated a change in title from Dictionary of Blended Denominations to the more inclusive Mixed Blessings.

The JavaScript program was updated yet again with exciting new word fragments like Buddh, farian, Dru, Hind, slam, Wic, Suf, and dozens more. Then the program was made to combine the non-Christian word parts with each other and also the non-Christian word parts with the Christian word parts. It was syncretism at its linguistic finest! Did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that there could be words like chrislam (Christianity + Islam) and sufipalian (Sufi + Episcopalian) and quagan (Quaker + pagan)?

Certainly my chief aim is for MB to be an authoritative source of lexical information about this interesting class of words. But I have a few more goals that are of a more social bent, and the conclusion of this article is a good place to mention a few of them.

One goal is that MB will leverage the social capital that inheres in printed dictionaries to raise the profile of the increasingly common phenomenon of multiple-religious belonging (MRB). The absence of nearly all these blended-religion terms from dictionaries has meant that people who employ them are open to criticism that they’re using “made-up words” and by extension that the hybrid religious and spiritual identities they’re attempting to describe aren’t legitimate. With the inclusion of these blended-religion terms in a printed dictionary, their legitimacy as means of self-expression will be better defended.

Another goal is that MB will help guide a variety of social influencers such as religious ministers, teachers, therapists, journalists, and authors. I envision this book in school libraries and in newsrooms where it enlarges and fortifies the working vocabulary of people who talk publicly about religion and culture. Perhaps thanks to MB we will see noticeable changes such as journalists no longer placing these religious blend words in scare quotes, or journalists amplifying discussions of these blend terms in news stories with interesting linguistic data such as how long a blended-religion term has been around and where else it has used it before (again we see the incomparable contributions of the chronologically ordered citation paragraph!).

An additional goal is that MB will be a source of inspiration and encouragement to religious seekers who thumb through its pages. May they see that they are far from being the first to wander off the beaten path in search of a more meaningful religious personality. I dream that people will sift through the entries to find a word that help them articulate and embrace their life story and spiritual journey. I’m excited and honored to be in a position to apply the art and craft of lexicography to document these words and, hopefully, share them with a large and appreciative audience.


Heartfelt thank-yous to Rebecca Shapiro and my wife Sara Stewart, who read early drafts of this article and provided helpful feedback that forced me to clarify my thoughts. Thanks are also due to our Executive Secretary Kory Stamper for looking up a few old Society records for me.

Tim’s Social Media

I blog about the Mixed Blessings project at .

I blog about lexicography at .

Please email me with your questions or thoughts about the MB project or just say hi: .


[1] DSNA Newsletter 40/1 (Spring 2016), p. 3 (“Member News”)

[2] Sheidlower, J. (2017). “The Closing of a Great American Dialect Project.” in The New Yorker (22 Sep.)

Globalex May 2019

The Globalex management committee met by Zoom on 15 May 2019 (9:00 CEST), with Ilan Kernerman, Simon Krek, Julia Miller, Dion Nkomo, and Lars Trap-Jensen in attendance. This Report constitutes a summary of what was discussed.*

The third international workshop of Globalex, GLOBALEX Workshop on Lexicography and Neologism, was held on 8 May at the DSNA biennial meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. The abstracts and PowerPoint presentations will be posted on the Globalex website**; the abstracts will also appear in the July issue of Kernerman Dictionary News, along with bios and photos of the presenters. Revised papers will be submitted to Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America as a special refereed issue guest-edited by the organizers, Annette Klosa-Kückelhaus and Ilan.

At DSNA’s general business meeting, Gilles-Maurice de Schryver offered a welcome presentation about Globalex and its goals, substituting for Lars, whose late flight change precluded his making the presentation. The upcoming meetings of Asialex (June 19-21), Afrilex (June 26-29), and Australex (September 3-4) are expected to have similar slots available for brief presentations about Globalex and its goals.

The mounting of searchable issues of the journal Lexicon on the Globalex website is progressing.

*The Globalex management committee keeps detailed minutes of its meetings, and a Report like this one serves as a concise summary to inform the Continental Associations, which are encouraged to publish the Reports on their websites.


Globalex April 2019

The MC met by Zoom on 9 April 2019 (16:00 CEST), with Ed Finegan, Ilan Kernerman, Lars Trap-Jensen, and Simon Krek in attendance.

While the Globalex management committee keeps detailed minutes of its meetings, “Reports” (like this one) serve as concise meeting summaries to communicate efficiently to the Continental Associations (CAs), which may publish the Reports on their websites, as DSNA does.

While Globalex wants to benefit from the ELEXIS news feed service, Globalex will be able to add material, particularly from the CAs, as one way to minimize duplication between ELEXIS and Globalex interests. Ditto for publications on the two sites: avoiding duplication needs to be addressed. Work on mounting Lexicon on the Globalex site is progressing.

After two successful Globalex workshops held in conjunction with LREC, a third will be held at the DSNA biennial meeting in Bloomington, Indiana in May. Going forward, Globalex will aim to mount events in connection with CA conferences and with other groups so as to foster shared knowledge with branches of endeavor outside lexicography, such as language technology and semantics.


On 17 January 2019, members of the Globalex Management Committee (GMC) met via Skype (Ilan Kernerman, Simon Krek, Julia Miller, Dion Nkomo, Lars Trap-Jensen; excused was Ed Finegan). Ilan chaired. [This report includes updated information that became available after the GMC met.]

Website. The 2018 and 2016 workshop sites are available (again) on the Elexis website ( Visitors will be redirected to the Globalex URL; for the 2019 workshop, a new page was set up ( The Globalex website ( is intended to serve as a central repository for lexicography publications, conference proceedings and recordings. Ilan and Simon will discuss further at Elexis meeting.

GWLN2019. An announcement about Globalex Workshop on Lexicography and Neologism at DSNA 2019 has been emailed. To be held in Bloomington, Indiana, 7 May, immediately preceding the DSNA biennial meeting (, the workshop will have fourteen papers, five of them presented virtually. The proceedings will appear on the Globalex website and the papers peer-reviewed for a special issue of Dictionaries. Meanwhile, the conference abstracts will appear in (the July 2019 issue of) Kernerman Dictionary News.

Editors forum. Following the last meeting of the GMC, Ilan contacted the editors of Dictionaries, IJL, Lexicography, and Lexikos, aiming to encourage cooperation on matters of common interest. (A report on the subsequent discussion among the editors is forthcoming.)

Conferences 2019. 1) Lars will check with the Nordic Association of Lexicography about possible involvement of Globalex at NAL’s next general assembly in June (
2) Afrilex ( is not planning a Globalex workshop at its June meeting but can offer a slot during the AGM to raise awareness about Globalex.
3) Asialex ( will not have a joint event with Euralex.
4) eLex will meet 1-3 October in Sintra, Portugal; abstract deadline 15 February (
5) AustraLex ( will hold its biennial meeting on 3-4 September at the Australian National University in Canberra.]

Elexis. The February meeting in Vienna will discuss ideas and make plans (

EMLex. The EMLex (European Master of Lexicography) will be noted on the Globalex site, as it is the most extensive study program in lexicography. There will be a session on EMLex at the next Afrilex meeting (

Next GMC meeting. Ilan will set a doodle poll for the week of February 11. [The meeting has been scheduled for 11 February.]


Reminiscence from Roland Berns, former member of DARE staff. [Editor: I hope to gather reminiscences from members of major projects over time. This is the first. Thanks to Joan Hall for passing on my request.]

A fact of life at DARE was forever being on the edge of extinction, of running out of money. FGC and Joan were always trying to secure backing so that we could carry on the work, and more than once we all received University-mandated letters from Joan (including Joan, who had to write one to herself) that there was no assurance that our jobs would exist next year. So I recall with particular fondness our receiving a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, and FGC celebrating by bringing in a large watermelon, which we all shared. He was a word man, after all.

Visit of Joan Hall to Cambridge MA.

Joan and her husband George visited Cambridge, MA, recently to discuss DARE with its publisher, Harvard University Press. While there they had lunch with the editor of the Newsletter and also saw the Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson materials at Harvard’s Houghton Library guided by John Overholt, Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Photos of John Overholt and the Houghton Library by George E. Hall.


The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the spring and fall. The editor is David Jost. Associate Editor is Peter Chipman. Member news items can be sent to Other Newsletter correspondence, such as articles for publication, should be directed to the editor at

Send correspondence re membership, etc. to

Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537

This issue:  Vol. 43 No. 2 (2018)

Cumulative issue #86