Newsletter Fall 2022

Newsletter Fall 2022

Table of Contents

Member & Dictionary News

After being announced in Dictionaries 42.1 in 2021, Charlotte Brewer and Stephen Turton’s pilot digital edition of the correspondence of James A. H. Murray, the first chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, went live at in July 2022.


The University of Minnesota Press announces Anatoly Liberman’s Take My Word for It: A Dictionary of English Idioms (Pub date: February 28, 2023):

As author Anatoly Liberman so rightly notes, language is the most mysterious tool we use. Yet while language allows us to express thoughts, the way people use language is not always clear. To pay through the nose. Raining cats and dogs. By hook or by crook. Curry favor. Drink like a fish. Eat crow. We hear such phrases every day, but this book is the first truly all-encompassing etymological guide to both their meanings and origins.

Spanning more than three centuries, Take My Word for It is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind window into the surprisingly short history of idioms in English. Widely known for his studies of word origins, Anatoly Liberman explains more than one thousand idioms, both popular and obscure, occurring in both American and British standard English and including many regional expressions.

The origins, and even the precise meaning, of most idioms are often obscure and lost in history. Based on a critical analysis of countless conjectures, with exact, in-depth references (rare in the literature on the subject), Take My Word for It provides not only a large corpus of idiomatic phrases but also a substantial bibliography. Detailed indexes and a thesaurus make the content accessible at a glance, and Liberman’s introduction and conclusion add historical dimensions. The result of decades of research by a leading authority, this book is both instructive and absorbing for scholars and general readers, who won’t find another resource comparable in scope or based on data even remotely as comprehensive.


Joan Houston Hall sends notice of tiered pricing for DARE:

I’m pleased to let you know that Harvard University Press has announced a new, tiered pricing structure for new institutional annual subscriptions and perpetual access purchases of digital DARE! This should make it much easier for smaller colleges and other libraries to add it to their collections!

Here are the new prices:

Academic libraries: Annual subscription/ Perpetual subscription
Up to 3,000 FTE: $310/ $1,640
3,0001-10,000 FTE: $720/ $3,280
10,001-20,000 FTE: $985/ $4,935
Above 20,000 FTE: $1,440/ $6,575

Public libraries: Annual subscription/ Perpetual subscription
Up to 50,000 users: $310/ $1,640
50,001—300,000 users: $720/ $3,280
300,001-1 million users: $985/ $4,935
Above 1 million users: $1,440/ $6,575

Secondary schools: Annual subscription, $250

Individuals: Annual subscription, $49
(For perpetual access institutional subscriptions, there is an annual fee of $150.)

As Kate Remlinger wrote in American Speech, “These dynamic, interactive features make digital DARE an invaluable resource, not only for what it reflects about the lexicon of American Englishes, speakers, regional variation, and language change, but also as a priceless research tool in that every detail down to a gnat’s eyebrow has been considered.”

If your library doesn’t already have it, I hope you’ll urge your librarian to strongly consider purchasing it!


DSNA members at Oxford University Press share news of the forthcoming Oxford Dictionary Of African American English:

Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research are delighted to announce the launch of a three-year research project, whose aim is to compile the Oxford Dictionary of African American English (ODAAE). Spearheaded by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center, and Alphonse Fletcher, University Professor at Harvard, the project is funded in part by grants from the Mellon and Wagner Foundations.

The Oxford Dictionary of African American English (ODAAE) is a landmark scholarly initiative to document the lexicon of African American English (AAE) in a dictionary based on historical principles. The ODAAE team will apply the depth and rigor of the OED’s historical methodology specifically to the study of AAE. A diverse team of lexicographers and researchers will create a dictionary that will illuminate the history, meaning, and significance of this body of language.

ODAAE will be an authoritative record of African American English. For all those interested in AAE, it will be the definitive reference for information about the meaning, pronunciation, spelling, usage, and history of AAE words.

Find out more about the project here:


What have you been up to? The DSNA loves to share news of member projects, publications, programs, and more! Please send your news to for inclusion in future newsletters. You can also see and share what’s happening on DSNA’s Member Forum, Facebook, and Twitter.

In Memoriam: Jeremiah P. Farrell, 1937–2022

The Society has learned that former member Jeremiah P. Farrell died on July 4, 2022. With the self-proclaimed motto, “There’s always room for one more dictionary,” Jerry contributed a DSNA Newsletter column on the collection and appreciation of dictionaries in 2005 ( The brief biography below is cribbed from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons BY-SA license:

Farrell, a professor emeritus of mathematics at Butler University in Indiana, was well known for having constructed Will Shortz’s favorite puzzle, the 1996 “Election Day” crossword in The New York Times. He also wrote puzzles for many other books and newspapers, such as Scott Kim’s puzzle column for Discover magazine.

Farrell was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the oldest of three children to Belle Einsphar and Paul Farrell, a third-generation railroad man. Farrell himself worked for one summer on the railroad, as a “grinder”, one who planes down the railroad tracks so they stay smooth. He attended Hastings High School, graduating in 1955, and then the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1963 with degrees in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. He later obtained a master’s degree in mathematics, and in 1966 was hired by Butler University, where he worked for the next 40 years, teaching nearly every subject in the mathematics department. He officially retired in 1994, but continued to teach.

He was best known for constructing many crossword puzzles for The New York Times, starting in the 1970s for editor Margaret Farrar, and then continuing to design new puzzles after Shortz took over. In 1996, he designed his most famous puzzle, the “Election Day” crossword. One of the words had the clue “lead story tomorrow”, with a 14-letter answer. The puzzle had two correct solutions: “Bob Dole elected” and “Clinton elected”, and all the crossing words were designed such that they could be one of two different words, to make either answer work. Shortz called it an “amazing” feat and his favorite puzzle.

With his wife Karen, Farrell helped organize the biannual “Gathering for Gardner” conferences, which started in 1993 as an invitation-only event for people connected with Martin Gardner.

In 2006 Farrell and his wife took over from A. Ross Eckler, Jr. as editors and publishers of the quarterly publication Word Ways: the Journal of Recreational Linguistics, established in 1968. 

For Farrell’s obituary, see the following link (which may not be openable outside the United States):

In Memoriam: E. Ward Gilman, 1931–2022

By John Morse

On June 15, 2022, E. Ward Gilman, the guiding spirit of Merriam-Webster’s Editorial Department for four decades and a giant of twentieth-century American lexicography, died quietly at his long-time home in Westfield, Massachusetts. He was 90 years old.

Gil, as he was always called, began his career at Merriam-Webster in 1958 as a proofreader in the production of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. He went to on have a direct hand in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth editions of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and an indirect hand in the eleventh edition. He was a definer and supervisor of proofreaders for the seventh edition; definer, copyeditor, and senior editor for the eighth edition; Managing Editor, copyeditor, and final reader for the ninth edition; final reader and Director of Defining for the tenth edition; and the person who trained nearly every definer who worked on the eleventh edition. Even today, if you consult an entry in a Merriam-Webster dictionary, there is a good chance that you are reading a definition written, copyedited, or revised by Gil or based on a definition written by him. Because of his prodigious output, his many years of service, and the strong sales of the dictionaries he worked on, it is likely that more of his definitions have  been seen by more people than those of  any other lexicographer working in the twentieth century.

Young man in glasses looks to his right from behind a stack of papers, folders, and books.
Gil at his desk in the Proof Room ca. 1975. As a proofreader on Webster’s Third, Gil was assigned to this part of the floor when he joined the company. He maintained his desk in the Proof Room until a major remodeling of the floor in the 1990s eliminated the room. Photo credit: Merriam-Webster archives

To members of DSNA, Gil is best known as the editor and principal author of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, a nearly 1,000-page book that describes and evaluates problems of confused or disputed English usage by examining both the historical background and present-day usage. The book took nearly five years to write and reflected nearly a decade of research, amassing and organizing information, drafting trial entries, and project planning. The book is a tour de force of Gil’s great strengths as a patient and dedicated collector of relevant material, an adept synthesizer of complex material, a natural storyteller, and a gifted writer of simple, unaffected prose. The book met with the immediate approval of scholars, journalists, and educators and stands today as the most highly praised work Merriam-Webster has ever published. 

To his younger colleagues at Merriam-Webster, Gil will always be remembered as a patient, good-natured, and effective teacher. Every definer who joined Merriam-Webster from the late 1960s through the early 2000s received his or her training in defining and Merriam-Webster style from Gil. The classes were always small and often one-on-one. The complexity of Merriam-Webster style is well known, but his methodical approach had a way of making it all understandable. More importantly, he was unfailingly patient with each new editor and always ready to help anyone who was making the effort to learn.

Madeline Novak, who served as a senior editor and Director of Editorial Operations, recalls that when she brought questions to Gil “he would invariably put aside what he was doing, look at the citations I had brought to him, and with cheerful zeal launch into a discussion of the issues involved.” No matter the question, he never made her feel foolish. “He understood that I was asking because I wanted to learn, and his whole goal was to help me do that. And I honestly felt that he enjoyed doing it.… Learning from him was a joy.”

Man with glasses sits reading in front of a window, his legs up and crossed on a desk crowded with paperwork and a potato
Gil relaxing at his desk, May 1982, during the production of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. The loud tie and shirt pocket full of different-colored pens were typical accessories for Gil. Photo credit: Stephen Perrault

Gil did in fact enjoy teaching. He retired in 1997 but continued coming into the office and training new editors until the early 2000s. It all made an indelible impression. Whenever Merriam-Webster editors gather socially, the conversation inevitably turns to their early days at Merriam-Webster and to style classes and defining exercises with Gil. It is perhaps Gil’s greatest legacy. He trained the people who wrote and still write the most widely used dictionaries in America.

Less well known to his colleagues is Gil’s early interest in digital dictionaries. He was involved in the 1960s in the creation of digital versions of the Seventh Collegiate and of Merriam-Webster’s paperback dictionary, which were made available to researchers. By 1968 he was regularly attending conferences and meetings regarding applications for digital dictionaries. In the 1970s, he challenged the planners of the Eighth Collegiate to envision a world in which dictionary content was created, consumed, and studied in digital form. Partly as a result, the typesetting file used for the Eighth Collegiate was a structured data file. The data structure was crude by today’s standards, but all future data structures at Merriam-Webster evolved from it. It would be several decades before those who followed in his footsteps could deliver on even parts of Gil’s vision, by which time a new generation of employees would be doing the development work, but all of us were building on a foundation that Gil helped create.

two men stand on either side of a beige filing cabinet, one in a shirt and tie, the other in a baby blue cardigan and sneakers
Gil in conversation with Robert Copeland, a longtime editor who shared Gil’s interest in the creation and uses of digital dictionary files and was the editor most responsible for the delivery of files to electronic licensees. He was also the editor of Webster’s Sports Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, and Merriam-Webster’s Word-to-Word Spanish English Dictionary. Photo credit: Stephen Perrault

Gil also left his mark on print products, most notably on the Eighth Collegiate, which was wholly redesigned to go from around 1200 pages and 130,000 entries to more than 1500 pages and 150,000 entries and established the look-and-feel for all future Collegiate dictionaries. The redesign included every aspect of the book: front matter, back matter, tables, folios, guide words, and alpha section openers, all under the guidance and coordination of Gil. Finding the right type size for the new edition was crucial, and Gil conducted test after test of the text-carrying capacity of various point sizes, leading, and set width before settling on 6.5-point Times Roman set on 6.0-point leading and a 7.0-point set width, which has been used in all subsequent editions of the Collegiate.

Still it is Gil the human being who we remember most fondly. Born in Akron, Ohio in 1931, he grew up in New Jersey and attended Bowdoin College, graduating in 1953 with a degree in English. After college he served two years of active duty in the Army, including a year in France. He married his college sweetheart, Jean Bentley, in 1955, and received a master’s degree in English from Boston University with in 1958.

Janny Scott, writing in the Los Angeles Times, described him as “a bespectacled bear of a man,” and he was indeed large, standing six feet tall and “ample of gut,” as Kory Stamper, a former Merriam-Webster editor, recalls. He also had a big personality, with opinions, often irreverent, about almost everything and no reluctance to share them. In later years he grew a white beard that was always a little disheveled, and his appearance did suggest, as Kory once said, “a 19th-century sea captain gone to seed,” a description that Gil cheerfully accepted.

a smiling man and woman of very different heights face toward a camera, the woman gestures at the man with her thumb
Gil at a party on the Editorial floor from sometime in the late 1990s. At the right is Kathleen Doherty, another longtime editor who worked on the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh editions of the Collegiate Dictionary and was one of the writers for the Dictionary of English Usage. Photo credit: Madeline Novak
two men standing in an office space, both smiling, one smiling at the other
Gil at the same party. At the right is Steve Perrault, who worked on the ninth, tenth, and eleventh editions of the Collegiate Dictionary and was principal editor of Merriam-Webster’s Advanced English Learners Dictionary. He succeeded Gil as Director of Defining when Gil retired in 1997. Photo credit: Madeline Novak

Gil was the person most responsible for the friendly atmosphere of the office. Steve Perrault, a retired senior editor and Gil’s successor as Director of Defining, rightly says that Gil “did more than anyone to create the feeling of esprit de corps among us young editors.” From time to time Gil would return from lunchtime errands with a supply of cheese, crackers, and apple cider and would lay them out on a nearby table for editors to snack on and pass a pleasant moment in conversation. Gil also served as the coach, pitcher, and enthusiastic supporter of Merriam-Webster’s ragtag co-ed softball team. Steve recalls Gil lumbering around the bases and shouting “Can of corn!” when someone hit a high fly ball or “Ducks on the pond!” when there were runners on base. And always at the end of the game there would be refreshments provided by Gil.

a man in a red shirt and baseball cap throws an underhanded pitch on a sunny green field
Gil on the mound during a Merriam-Webster softball game sometime in the 1980s. Steve Perrault recalls that Gil liked to describe himself facetiously as moving like “a big cat” on the mound. Photo credit: Madeline Novak

Gil was also a great storyteller, and storytelling was important. From the mid-1980s on, he was the only member of the Editorial Department to have worked on Webster’s Third. His stories about editors from that period, often funny and always with a point, provided younger editors with a sense of the people who had come before them. He was, as Madeline has said, “our living link to the past” and gave us a sense that we were part of a larger staff that included not only our contemporaries but also those who had worked before on dictionaries we were revising.

The picture of Gil would not be complete without speaking about his home life, for as professionally accomplished as he was, he was able to strike an admirable work-life balance. He always arrived at work early, one of the first in the building every morning, but he also left as soon as the official workday was over. As his son John remembers, on summer nights he was home in time for a game of catch with his sons or to cook dinner. He took the time to coach Little League baseball, play guitar, develop his taste for good food, good beer, good wine, and good jazz, and be a die-hard Red Sox fan. John speculates that Gil was part of the last generation that could support middle-class intellectuals, men and women who were deeply learned in an academic subject but still enmeshed in the activities of middle-class life and who could live comfortably on the modest salary of a dictionary editor and still enjoy at least some of the finer things in life. Gil did all of that and did it gracefully.

Gil was predeceased by his wife, Jean, who died in June of 2009. He is survived by his three sons, William, James and John, as well as his two granddaughters, Meghan Gilman and Arielle Gilman. All of us, his friends, his family, and his colleagues share the same feeling: He was my friend. I miss him.

Grateful thanks to John and James Gilman and to all of Gil’s colleagues, especially Kathleen Doherty, Madeline Novak and Steven Perrault, who helped with this In Memoriam and shared their memories of Gil with me.

In Memoriam: Vincent McCarren, 1939–2022

By David Jost

Vincent McCarren died April 9, 2022. I mourn him personally, for he was a dear friend of mine, but he was also a prodigious lexicographer, a role I want to honor in this memorial.

Vince came to his task as many a lexicographer does, by a combination of paths. Vince trained as a classicist, taking his BA from Fordham, his MA from Columbia, and his PhD from University of Michigan. He specialized in papyrology and was recognized by the Revised Supplement to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon for “Substantial contributions in the field of papyrology.” So one path to his lexicographical career led from his preparation in classics, especially the incredible focus on text demanded by papyrology.

The other path came about from his long tenure at the Middle English Dictionary, where we crossed paths. Vince, who worked there from 1979 to 1997, was employed in doing the research required to ensure that the work of the editors was accurately sourced and cited. At times this required original research, which Vince was eminently qualified to do.

One day Vince and I happened to discuss medieval glossaries, and I pointed out to him that he was one of the few people who had the knowledge of both Middle English and of Latin that would allow someone to edit a work like that. Unbeknownst to me at that point, I at least planted a seed that gave rise to Vince’s massive, decades-long task of editing the Stonyhurst manuscript of the Medulla Grammatice.

I will let Vince describe the task in his own words, excerpting from an article that appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of this newsletter. (

This edition of the Stonyhurst manuscript of the Medulla Grammatice is an attempt at revealing a current of thinking, indeed, a first step in the direction of understanding a sub-literary movement which took place within England from beginning to end of the fifteenth century. This edition represents the earliest Latin-English glossary in the tradition entitled the Medulla Grammatice or Marrow of Grammar (Philology) ante 1425 A.D. The Medulla Grammatice comprises nineteen known manuscripts and four fragments…. Entries are in Latin with glosses or interpretations in Middle English. Not infrequently transliterated Greek appears with Latin and/or Middle English as glosses. At times Hebrew and French make their appearance….

The Stonyhurst manuscript has been chosen for editing due to its unique combination of virtues, i.e., being of the earliest of the manuscripts (a1425), within the tradition of the Medulla Grammatice, and being complete, having some 16,000 entries within seventy-one folios. In comparison to the material which constitutes the nineteen manuscripts and four fragments of the Medulla Grammatice, not to mention the enormous glossographical reserves worldwide, this edition of the Stonyhurst manuscript is little more than a scribal twitch. The Stonyhurst manuscript exemplifies the many challenges facing the editor of medieval glossaries, and it is hoped that this edition might provide a sense of the scope and significance of the glossographical tradition.

It should be mentioned, because it is of importance to lexicography, that over the course of his work Vince found both new words and meanings that he relayed to the appropriate dictionaries.

At the very end of this piece I have inserted a page of the edition to show how this careful work led to a new treatment in the MED.

Vince clearly outlines the challenges such editorial work involves in the following:

With as many of the best lexica you can manage, along with some supportive period manuscripts, problems … will be grasped and solutions will be realized, more or less. When that moment comes you will know that you are truly part of the scholarly community.

In the newsletter article Vince gives a flavor of the difficult morass of challenges one runs into continuously in such editing work, which makes it all the more amazing to know that having begun the work in 1983,  Vince stuck with it to complete it in 2022, the year of his death. 40 years! The wonderful thing is that he did finish it, a privilege that not all lexicographers have had.

Publishing began in 2007 by the international journal A.L.M.A. (Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi); and in 2018 its copyright was transferred to the University of Michigan Press and General Library’s internet system, “Deep Blue” (all accomplished most agreeably).

The Library of the University of Michigan has published our edition in the Deep Blue digital library ( of academic and research work.

This work was a labor of love, but as I have mentioned few could have done it. Without such work the writings of the past cannot be understood. Thus, what Vince did is, in my mind, of the highest importance.

Vince, in addition to being a scholar, had a deep love of music. He had an oversized sense of humor that was constantly in play. He was a devoted husband and friend. “He was a verray, parfit gentil knight.” 

Publications by Vincent P. McCarren

  • A Critical Concordance to Catullus, E.J. Brill, 1977
  • American Studies in Papyrology, Vol 22, 1980, “Michigan Papyri XIV, edited by Vincent P. McCarren”
  • Medium Aevum Vol LVIII, 1989, “Middle English FEMINAL- A Ghost Word”
  • Traditio: Studies in Ancient and Mediaeval History Thought and Religion Vol XLVIII, 1993, “A Fragment of the Medulla Grammatica” [For a detailed description of the manuscripts of the Medulla Grammatice the reader should see appendix II of V.P. McCarren’s critical edition of the Bristol MS. DM1, pp. 220–24.] Recognized for ‘Substantial contributions in the field of papyrology’ by Liddell and Scott Revised Supplement Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford 1996
  • University of Toronto Early Dictionary Databases, 1994, “Toward a Text of the Medulla Grammatica: Procedures and Prospects in Editing a 15th Century Glossary.”
  • A Guide to Editing Middle English, Eds Vincent P. McCarren and Douglas Moffat, The University of Michigan Press, 1998
  • The Journal of Medieval Latin, Vol 10, 2000, “The Gloucester Manuscript of the Medulla Grammatica: An Edition”
  • Bulletin Du Cange: Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi, Tome 60, 2002, “Linguistic Problems Within the Tradition of the 15th Century Glossary Medulla Grammatice
  • Bulletin Du Cange, idem, Tome 65, 2007, “A Prolegomenon to the Stonyhurst Medulla: An Edition of the Letter ‘A'”
  • Bulletin Du Cange: Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi, Tome 70, 2012, “An Edition of the First Half of the Letter C of the Medulla Grammatice (Stonyhurst ms A.1.10)”
  • An Edition of the Medulla Grammatice, Stonyhurst MS. (A.1.10) on University of Michigan Deep Blue, 2023, [Sample of part of page below (p. 72 of the letter A)  is taken from this site.]
page with text from An Edition of the Medulla Grammatice

Upcoming Conferences

Publication Information

The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the spring and fall. It is currently edited by Lindsay Rose Russell and Rachel Fletcher. Associate Editor is Peter Chipman. Member news items can be sent to

Our Executive Director is Lindsay Rose Russell.

Send correspondence re membership, etc. to

Dictionary Society of North America
Department of English, University of Illinois
608 S Wright St, Rm 208
Urbana IL 61801

This issue: Vol. 46 No. 2 (2022)

Cumulative issue #94

Newsletter Spring 2022

Newsletter Spring 2022

Table of Contents

Society Announcement: Project Grants

The Dictionary Society of North America will award small grants in support of practical or scholarly lexicographic projects by independent researchers, dictionary makers, and early-career scholars. The awards aim to support existing projects for which a small grant would make a substantial difference in bringing the project to a more advanced stage or to completion. The grants may be used to support purchase of necessary resources, including travel to sites to gather data from libraries or native speakers. While awards are not limited as to language, projects related to Indigenous languages of the Americas are encouraged. DSNA will make one or two awards, not exceeding $2,500 each.

Applications comprise three items: 1) a description (not to exceed 1,200 words) of the overall project, indicating what has been accomplished to date, what remains to be completed, and what the award funds would cover or enable; 2) a list of other sources of support for the project that have been secured or are on request, if any; 3) the applicant’s curriculum vitae or resumé.

Applications must be received by June 17, 2022, and a successful applicant must be a member of DSNA before receiving the award. Announcement of awards will be made before the end of July 2022. Award winners must furnish a brief report on the progress of the project within one year of the award and must remain a DSNA member through completion of the award period and submission of a report.

A second round of award applications will be announced in late summer, 2022.

Applications should be submitted by email attachment, with the subject line DSNA AWARD APPLICATION and sent to:

– Edward Finegan, DSNA President

Member News

What have you been up to? The DSNA loves to share news of member projects, publications, programs, and more! Please send your news to for inclusion in future newsletters. You can also see and share what’s happening on DSNA’s Member Forum, Facebook, and Twitter.

Column: Quotations by Elizabeth Knowles

Limited Circles?

I have been reflecting on a particular subcategory of quotations: those which acquire some kind of public profile and have evident impact, but which mysteriously do not seem to achieve much usage beyond a specific circle, or real longevity. I came across an example recently, while pursuing researches into what was being quoted in 1941 (the year in which the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations first appeared). The item in question appeared in a leader column of the London Times, 10 January 1941, under the heading “An Ambassador’s Functions.” The occasion was a luncheon given in London in honour of Lord Halifax, who was about to take up the role of British ambassador in Washington. It was clearly a grand occasion (the Times refers to the “remarkable gathering of the national leaders”), and it was also the culmination of an extraordinary period of political division. Edward Wood, Earl of Halifax (1881–1959), politician and diplomat, had been Neville Chamberlain’s foreign secretary, identified with the “Appeasement” policy, who in 1940 when Chamberlain left office had been seen as a credible alternative to Churchill as prime minister. (In our own time, a rivalry between the two was a key theme of the 2017 film The Darkest Hour.) Churchill himself of course had been passionately opposed to appeasement, and therefore to the policy pursued by Halifax. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) makes it clear that the change of role was not what Halifax had wanted (his “first reaction … was one of horror”—not so much at the prospect of going to Washington, as at being eased out of the role of foreign secretary), but by the time of the luncheon all parties, if not reconciled to what was happening, were ready to put the best face on it. As the Times describes the speech made by the new ambassador:

Lord Halifax goes to Washington chiefly to help Americans and their government to understand the thoughts, intentions, and needs of his own countrymen, and to transmit to London similar information about the United States. To succeed in the second is also to succeed in the first, for, as he quoted from Lord Grey, “nothing so predisposes men to understand as the consciousness that they are understood.”

This was one foreign secretary quoting a previous occupant of the role: Lord Grey of Fallodon (1862–1933), who has an established place in dictionaries of quotations for his comment at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” The remark is recorded in Grey’s own two-volume memoir, Twenty-Five Years, 1892–1916, published in 1925, and the same book is the source of the quotation used by Halifax in 1941. It comes from a passage in which Grey writes about a British diplomat, William Tyrrell (1866–1947), who had worked very closely with him, and for eight years had been his private secretary. In the introduction to the first volume, having praised the effect of Tyrrell’s “power of understanding the point of view of foreigners,” he sums up, “Nothing so predisposes men to understand as the consciousness that they are understood.”

Grey must have been a towering figure in the somewhat rarefied world of diplomacy and high politics of the first part of the twentieth century, and it is probably not surprising that Halifax is found quoting him. However, it looks as though these particular words were also very much in tune with his political and diplomatic philosophy. He used them in a debate on the “European situation” in the House of Lords in April 1936, and in November of the same year when the topic under discussion was “Government Policy and the Defence Services.” He used them again after the war in 1947 in a debate on the Indian Independence Bill (Andrew Roberts in his biography of Halifax, The Holy Fox (1991), notes that Halifax’s measured contribution to the debate, and his support for the government, was influential, not least since he was a former viceroy). This particular usage was picked up and commented on in June 1961 in a debate on “The Commonwealth and the Common Market,” and in one on the Commonwealth in May 1965, in which the same speaker credited the words to “the late Lord Halifax”—at this point, Grey had been forgotten. And after this, the quotation dies from sight, with no further modern attributions.

I find this interesting, because it had had a certain chronological spread (forty years), it encapsulates what would I think be recognized as a valid comment on relations between people from differing groups, and it was clearly adducible in a number of circumstances. It looks, however, as though in terms of active usage it never really escaped a particular, slightly rarefied, circle, and as though too it needed the extra affirmation of being the view of someone regarded as carrying a certain weight. As politics moved on, other figures came to the fore; neither Grey nor Halifax were names with which to conjure. Grey’s comment, I think, can be seen as a quotation which might have attained real longevity, but which somehow never quite achieved it, even though for a certain period it can be demonstrated to have had life.

There are two footnotes to this which I rather enjoy. Firstly, the nature of the one non-political use of the quotation I have been able to trace, which speaks to Grey’s known persona of someone interested in country pursuits. (His ODNB entry describes him as “countryman” as well as politician and author.) It was probably this side of him that J. F. Dobie had in mind when he wrote in The Voice of the Coyote (1961), “‘Nothing so predisposes men to understand as to know that they are understood.’ Grey of Fallodon might have extended that philosophy to coyotes.”

The other point relates to Halifax. I mentioned above the 2017 film The Darkest Hour, depicting British politics in early 1940. Towards the end of that film, Churchill makes a speech in the House of Commons in which he wins round those opposed to him. Halifax is watching from the gallery above, and when the man beside him asks what Churchill has done, Halifax replies that he has “mobilized the English language and sent it in to battle.” Those words fit the occasion exactly, but of course they were not coined by Halifax. They were spoken after the war (in a broadcast of 1954) by the American journalist Edward R. Murrow. I wonder how many people, having seen the film, would now attribute them to Halifax? In which case, he would once more have the distinction of being credited only with the words of someone else.

– Elizabeth Knowles, December 2021

Column: Michael Hancher Retiring from Classroom Lectern by Edward Finegan

Former DSNA president Michael Hancher is retiring from the classroom after half a century of professorial service at the University of Minnesota. To honor the milestone occasion, the Department of English sponsored a farewell lecture by Michael on April 29, 2022. In an invitation to the event, Michael’s department colleagues reported that he had joined the faculty in 1972 and, besides his contributions as a faculty member, served in several administrative roles, including as department chair, director of graduate studies, and associate dean for faculty and research in the College of Liberal Arts, and that he was honored with the President’s Award for Outstanding Service in 2014. At the farewell lecture, after introductory comments about his early academic life, Michael talked on the topic “Illustrating Meaning: Pictures in Dictionaries” —a version of his forthcoming chapter for the Cambridge Handbook of the Dictionary (edited by Michael Adams and Edward Finegan). Attending the celebration were a group assembled in person on the university campus and a far-flung international group of admirers attending by Zoom. It goes without saying that Michael’s lecture offered a wealth of illustrations accompanying his talk.

Within DSNA, Michael Hancher served as president for the 2009–2011 term and serves still as an active member of the society’s publications committee, as well as on the editorial advisory board of Dictionaries. Among his recent publications are The Tenniel Illustrations to the “Alice” Books (2nd ed., Ohio State University Press, 2019) and “Seeing and Tagging Things in Pictures” (Representations 155, 2021). Since at least as early as 1988, he has contributed to Dictionaries, including articles on illustrations in The Century Dictionary (1996), interpreting dictionary illustrations (1988), illustrating Webster (2010), digital dictionaries (2014), and dictionary vs. encyclopedia (2019). For those attending the milestone lecture in person, there were refreshments shared and enjoyed immediately afterwards in the English Department; for those attending by Zoom, well, it depended on the time of the day where you were! 

– Ed Finegan

In Memoriam: Allan Metcalf

Allan Albert Metcalf
April 18, 1940–February 24, 2022

With the death of Allan Metcalf, DSNA lost one of its earliest members and a tireless champion of dictionaries. In his role as executive secretary of the American Dialect Society (which was the nominal sponsor of the Dictionary of American Regional English), Allan was indefatigable in promoting DARE in both scholarly circles and the popular press. And from his bully pulpit as a blogger for Lingua Franca in The Chronicle of Higher Education, he paid frequent attention not only to DARE, but to other dictionaries, to lexicographers, and to DSNA conferences.

Between 2011 and 2018, Allan posted almost every week, with topics encompassing nearly every aspect of written or spoken language. His musings about dictionaries and lexicographers can be found under such tantalizing titles as “Death of a Dictionary? Or an Abduction?” (on the disappearance of Webster’s New World); “Decline and Fall of a 4-Letter Word” (ain’t); “The Oldest Profession” (lexicography); “An Orphan Finds a Loving Home” (on the sale of Webster’s New World to Houghton Mifflin); “Prospecting for Antedates” (on using online databases); “Redefining the Dictionary” (on the 2013 DSNA conference); and “The Dictionary on Trial” (on the use of dictionaries in the courtroom); not to mention at least 15 posts about the perils and progress of DARE. In addition, Allan was generous in bringing the work of DSNA colleagues to the attention of his readers, with shout-outs to Richard Bailey, David Barnhart, Gerald Cohen, Erin McKean, Kory Stamper, and others.

While Allan’s scholarship over the last half-century centered on language variation and histories of specific words, his original intent was to be a math major. As a freshman at Cornell University, however, he quickly decided that he loved words more than numbers, and he eventually became the editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun. In a letter to his daughter, he remembered that as being “a career high point” where “I got to write an in-your-face editorial 5 days a week.” Through that position and a summer internship with The Wall Street Journal, he had opportunities to report on a campus visit by Martin Luther King, Jr. and attend press conferences of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and then-candidate John F. Kennedy.

Following undergraduate studies at Cornell and a year at the Free University of Berlin, Allan began graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley. The year was 1964, and the fall semester was dominated by what became known as the “Free Speech Movement,” inspired by the university’s prohibition of any political or religious advocacy on campus. In writing about it for Lingua Franca in 2014, the fiftieth anniversary of the events, Allan reminisced, “When they staged a protest march, not only was it nonviolent, but we dressed in our best grownup clothes to show how reasonable, virtuous and serious we were. Hard to imagine nowadays.”

At Berkeley, Allan’s studies focused on medieval English literature, and he earned an M.A. and then a Ph.D., with a dissertation titled “The Poetic Language of the Old English Meters of Boethius” in 1966. He continued writing on Old and Middle English in his first teaching position at the University of California, Riverside, but he also became interested in varieties of American English through his work there with records from linguistic atlas projects. In 1979, in collaboration with David W. Reed, he wrote A Guide to the California-Nevada Field Records of the Linguistic Atlas of the Pacific Coast; and in 1984 his article “The Pacific Coast: End of the Line” was published in Dialectology, Linguistics, Literature: Festschrift for Carroll E. Reed (who was director of the Linguistic Atlas of the Pacific Northwest and author, with Lester W. J. Seifert, of A Linguistic Atlas of Pennsylvania German). The exposure to atlas work sparked Allan’s interest in local language, resulting in his publishing Riverside English: The Spoken Language of a Southern California Community, as well as several articles on California Chicano English. (Details are available at In 1973 Allan left Riverside for the opportunity to be department chair at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, a small college where his grandfather and great-grandfather had both been administrators. Being close to Chicago was a bonus: Allan had grown up there and had many fond memories of Saturdays spent at the Museum of Science and Industry. Whenever ADS, MLA, LSA, or DARE held meetings there, he was in his element, sharing with his colleagues his recollections of family, educational, and cultural experiences in the city.

At MacMurray, Allan taught a wide variety of courses in English and American literature, linguistics, creative and expository writing, and even Latin. He was also the faculty advisor to the campus newspaper. In recent years he added administrative positions to his résumé, thereby freeing up funds for a colleague in the English Department.

Beginning in 1981, Allan added the job of executive secretary of ADS to his already busy schedule, and he maintained that position until 2018. As editor of the triannual Newsletter of the American Dialect Society, he kept members aware of meetings, news, publications, and opportunities. In so doing, he fostered an atmosphere of openness to new people and different ideas, with the result that by the end of the decade the society’s rolls had expanded from 450 to 600 members. As an administrator, his quiet competence resulted in meetings that were run like clockwork. He presided with grace and humor while he managed to keep sessions largely on schedule.

It was in 1990 that Allan’s idea of a “Word of the Year” contest at the ADS annual meeting started to raise the visibility of the society. The event had categories for words such as “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Creative,” and “Most Unnecessary,” as well as “Word of the Year,” and participants were encouraged to make stump speeches in support of (or opposition to) the nominees. Press coverage increased each year. And when the ADS changed its meeting schedule to convene with the LSA rather than MLA, the number of participants increased exponentially. The event has become one of the most popular of the conference, resulting in a large, rollicking opinion-fest and giving the ADS worldwide press coverage each January.

In addition to his work with Lingua Franca and the ADS, Allan also managed to be a prolific writer, publishing eight books about aspects of the English language: they dealt with American regional English, worldwide varieties of English, predicting the success of new words, the speaking styles of American presidents, words of different generations, and, in two books that were particularly dear to his heart, the words OK and guy (see

In OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, Allan traces its roots as a humorous misspelling in the Boston Morning Post of March 23, 1839 through its expansion in this country and its eventual pervasiveness throughout the world. He was pleased with its success and particularly delighted with its encapsulation in a witty, animated short video “Why We Say OK” (

The use of the phrase you guys to refer not just to a group of men, but also to a group of women, or even to the whole human race, had fascinated Allan for years, and in 2019 he published Nice Guys, Fall Guys, and the Guy they Set on Fire: The Legacy of Guy Fawkes. On his webpage description of the book Allan wrote:

How Guy became a guy: how that guy gradually became any male; how the loss of the pronoun “thou” gave “you guys” an opening to become the standard second person plural, and how today it has become both controversial yet nearly universal—this book tells all.

When Parkinson’s disease required Allan to cut back on his activities, he resigned as executive secretary of the ADS, but he continued to participate in conferences and he kept up with the Board of Visitors for DARE. He never lost his wry sense of humor or his delight in wordplay. Nor did he stop planning for the next book. His MacMurray colleague Robert Seufert relates that after writing the history of the word logos, Allan envisioned Good Job, Buddy!, a sendup of the nursing home experience.

Allan is survived by his brother, Robert Harker Metcalf, and his four children, Stephen Joseph Metcalf, David Harker Metcalf, Michael Bailard Metcalf, and Sara Susanne Metcalf.

– Joan Hall

Upcoming Conferences

News from the DSNA Office by Lindsay Rose Russell

As I approach my first anniversary as Executive Director of the DSNA, I can report that I still have a lot to learn from Kory Stamper! In addition to serving as the Society’s Vice President, Kory is completing a term as Most Gracious Predecessor Ever, generously teaching me the many ropes (and complicated braids) of our small organization. It is an honor and a joy to work closely with Kory and President Ed Finegan—both calm, wry, savvy, and deeply ethical in their intellectual and professional pursuits.

I can also report that Dictionary Society of North America offices are (nearly) fully relocated to and (nearly) fully operational in Urbana, Illinois. Our wee space—packed with back issues, paperwork, and memorabilia—now resides in the University of Illinois’ English Building. Situated prominently on the main quad, it has a grand brick façade with white columns, dormer windows, occasional balconies and promenades. It was erected in 1905 as the Women’s Building, home to everything from a pool to dormitories to classrooms dedicated to women’s education. One former student is widely reported to haunt the building; we can only hope she is a dictionary enthusiast.

Color photograph of the University of Illinois English Building from northeast on a clear sunny day. Tall leafy trees foreground a big red brick building with white columns and window trim.
English Building, University of Illinois, 1960; courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Recent meetings of the Executive Board (in October 2021, January 2022, and April 2022) have prioritized five points of business: 

DSNA Project Awards: The Board has agreed to offer $3,000 to support lexicographical projects and research by members. Awards will be distributed through a competitive application process administered by an ad hoc committee appointed by the President. Read the full CFP here.

Strategic Planning: The Board approved a survey of the membership as a first step in the process of strategic planning. The Vice President and Executive Director designed and administered the survey, and the membership graciously shared their thoughts: Of the 300 members and former members invited to participate, about 27% replied, and their responses confirm the value of the DSNA’s key offerings—its journal, newsletter, meetings, and community of active members.

Budgeting: In spite of rising costs for publishing the Society’s journal, Dictionaries, the DSNA’s finances have remained healthy over the past year, allowing us to keep membership dues modest or, in the case of students, free; to continue our connections with organizations that share our interests, including the ACLS, the National Humanities Alliance, and the LinguistList; and to expand programming that directly supports members and their work, including the DSNA Project Awards.

Biennial Conference: DSNA24 is slated to take place May 31 to June 3, 2023, at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Former DNSA President Orin Hargraves is organizing the conference and expects to release a CFP in summer 2022. The Board is deeply invested in DSNA24, which will be the first in-person meeting of the Society since 2019, and they are eager to retain aspects of internet-enabled accessibility that made the virtual DSNA23 such a success.  

Publications and Communications: September, December, January, and March meetings of the ad hoc Publications Committee, chaired by Wendalyn Nichols, have continued the work of establishing a publishing partnership that will best secure the accessibility and financial sustainability of Dictionaries. This Committee has also temporarily taken on responsibility for publishing the DSNA Newsletter that you’re reading right now; special thanks are owed to Rachel Fletcher, longtime Newsletter Associate Editor Peter Chipman, and Wendi. Recognizing that, over time, the Publications Committee has been asked to juggle an increasingly onerous workload, the Board has deputized Vice President Kory Stamper to build a website taskforce to undertake a much-needed redesign.

Report from the DSNA’s Globalex Representative Orin Hargraves

The Globalex Management Committee (MC) met virtually on 5 October, 2 November, and 7 December 2021. This report summarizes the major items discussed and the actions taken, combining the contents by topic.

Report of the Globalex Management Committee Meetings, Fourth Quarter of 2021

Association News

  • Australex had its first meeting with a new board on 5 November. The new president is Michael Walsh (2021–2023).
  • The Euralex submission deadline for 2022 conference is 1 December .
  • Americalex have had difficulties communicating in recent months, expect to pick up soon.

Conferences, Events, Workshops

  • The Asialex Symposium on Cross-Cultural Lexicography took place virtually 10–11 December.
  • Papers of GWLN-3, which was held in conjunction with Australex 2021, were submitted to Lexicographica Series Maior  for review as a special issue (2022). The manuscript includes all the GWLN-3 papers but one, with two others; total 13 papers plus introduction.

Globalex News

  • The board may invite representatives of other organizations to become MC members as observers if they contribute to the aims of Globalex. Like other members, observers are appointed for a two-year period and may be re-appointed once. They take part in the meetings but are not eligible to be elected Chair or Vice-Chair and do not have the right to vote. Any entity that is interested in lexicography and that is considered by MC as an important collaborator is eligible to become an observer.
  • We discussed possible publication of Globalex workshop proceedings on Globalex website. The most important factor is indexation by Scopus, Web of Science, etc. We would need at least 3 years (more likely 4–5 years) to be considered by Scopus.
  • The Netherlands tax authorities have agreed to exempt Globalex from submitting quarterly reports (as it has no income or expenses).

Globalex Website

  • Amanda will join Lars and Ilan in the subcommittee for the Globalex website redesign.
  • Lars has circulated the subcommittee’s proposal in advance.
  • The subcommittee plans to meet with Iztok Kosem to elaborate about incorporating Elexifinder and consult in general.
  • We discussed criteria for posting obituaries to the website. The consensus is that we could honor those with international standing and those specifically nominated by any association. We could consider adding an obituary section in Elexifinder referring also to relevant items published in other media. MC members are asked to report any candidates from their regional associations.
  • Globalex was accorded space on the Elexis server to use as an archive and Lars has uploaded the documents he has.

Lars Trap-Jensen, Chair (Euralex), Dion Nkomo, Vice-Chair (Afrilex), Orin Hargraves (DSNA), Ilan Kernerman (Asialex), Amanda Laugesen (Australex), Regiani Zacarias (Americalex SCCM), Simon Krek (Elexis).

Report of the Globalex Management Committee Meetings, First Quarter of 2022

The Globalex Management Committee (MC) met virtually on January 4, February 1, and March 1, 2022. This report summarizes the major items discussed and the actions taken, combining the contents by topic.

Association News

  • Australex has moved its website to a new location with updated layout, planning to have content updated soon.
  • Elexis, the EU project, will end in July 2022. Everything produced within the project will be made available via CLARIN. Establishing a post-Elexis self-funding society is too expensive (and redundant). A “light-weight” option will be presented at the final (hybrid) meeting in Florence, June 7–8 (

Globalex News

We continued the discussion on long-term policy for Globalex publication and whether to self-publish. Both technical and branding issues should be considered.

Globalex Website

  • A subcommittee (Lars, Amanda, Ilan) has been appointed to make the necessary updates to the website in the coming months.
  • Elexifinder search tool has been implemented on the Globalex website.

Lars Trap-Jensen, Chair (Euralex), Dion Nkomo, Vice-Chair (Afrilex), Orin Hargraves (DSNA), Ilan Kernerman (Asialex), Amanda Laugesen (Australex), Regiani Zacarias (Americalex SCCM), Simon Krek (Elexis).

– Orin Hargraves

Report from DSNA ACLS Delegate Jack Lynch

Because travel arrangements were growing complex, Ed Finegan asked me to step in as a delegate at the annual meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies in Philadelphia at the end of April. I was happy to oblige.

The Dictionary Society of North America has been a member of the ACLS since 1994, though it’s unlike many of the other constituent associations. Most of the seventy-some learned societies under the Council’s aegis consist almost entirely of those on university payrolls, but the DSNA’s membership is a mix of academics and working lexicographers. The DSNA is also smaller than most ACLS members, some of which—the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association, the Linguistic Society of America—are scholarly behemoths with memberships in the thousands and operating budgets in the millions. But all come together at the annual ACLS meeting to express their shared commitment to the humanities. This, the first in-person ACLS meeting since 2019, provided an opportunity to recount the past and imagine the future.

The first evening of the conference featured a wide-ranging conversation between ACLS President Joy Connolly and Philip Brian Harper, the Program Director for Higher Learning at the Mellon Foundation, one of the country’s most energetic promoters of the humanities. The discussion was followed by a celebratory dinner to mark the completion of the ACLS Centennial Campaign, which raised $139 million to devote to fellowships and other initiatives. The celebration was warranted, though it reminds us that financial support for the humanities in the US comes increasingly from private philanthropy rather than state or federal sources.

The next day featured the business meeting of the council proper: officers were nominated, budgets were proposed, and the American Association for Italian Studies was admitted, nem. con., to membership. There followed panel discussions on doctoral education, the future of academic publishing, the place of classical studies in modern higher education, and similar topics, all interdisciplinary, all forward-looking, and all asking what the next generation of humanists should look like if we’re serious about being inclusive. The sessions ended with the annual Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture, which always bears the title “A Life of Learning.” This year’s speaker was Nell Irvin Painter, emerita professor of history, whose life of learning and whose moral and intellectual gravitas were inspiring to everyone who cares about humanistic inquiry.

There is much to be glum about in 2022. We will be recovering, or at least trying to recover, from the pandemic for many years to come. Political dysfunction continues to erode public funding for education and research. What money remains is often diverted from the humanities to disciplines believed to be of more vocational utility. None of these problems seem likely to improve any time soon.

And yet, through all the gloom and doom, the mood at the ACLS was surprisingly upbeat. Some of that can be attributed to the occasion: for many of us it was our first chance to talk, to laugh, and to raise a glass with friends after two weary years of isolation and anxiety. Some of it can be attributed to the opportunity to quiz delegates from unfamiliar disciplines about their scholarly passions and obsessions (and to answer, in return, the question most DSNA members have been asked at one time or another: “An entire society devoted to dictionaries?”). Most of the good mood, though, came from the universally shared conviction that what we do as humanists—as historians, classicists, musicologists, folklorists, even lexicographers—has real value in the real world.

The challenges are real, and sometimes can seem overwhelming, but the annual meeting of the ACLS offered a welcome reminder of why we do what we do. We’ve grown unaccustomed to feeling hopeful but, for at least one weekend in April, hope was widespread, and smiles were perceptible even behind the N95s.

– Jack Lynch

Publication Information

The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the spring and fall. It is currently edited by the Publications Committee, chaired by Wendalyn Nichols. Associate Editor is Peter Chipman. Member news items can be sent to

Our Executive Director is Lindsay Rose Russell.

Send correspondence re membership, etc. to

Dictionary Society of North America
Department of English, University of Illinois
608 S Wright St, Rm 208
Urbana IL 61801

This issue: Vol. 46 No. 1 (2022)

Cumulative issue #93

Project Grants

The Dictionary Society of North America will award small grants in support of practical or scholarly lexicographic projects by independent researchers, dictionary makers, and early-career scholars. The awards aim to support existing projects for which a small grant would make a substantial difference in bringing the project to a more advanced stage or to completion. The grants may be used to support purchase of necessary resources, including travel to sites to gather data from libraries or native speakers. While awards are not limited as to language, projects related to Indigenous languages of the Americas are encouraged. DSNA will make one or two awards, not exceeding $2,500 each.

Applications comprise three items: 1) a description (not to exceed 1,200 words) of the overall project, indicating what has been accomplished to date, what remains to be completed, and what the award funds would cover or enable; 2) a list of other sources of support for the project that have been secured or are on request, if any; 3) the applicant’s curriculum vitae or resumé.

Applications must be received by June 17, 2022, and a successful applicant must be a member of DSNA before receiving the award. Announcement of awards will be made before the end of July 2022. Award winners must furnish a brief report on the progress of the project within one year of the award and must remain a DSNA member through completion of the award period and submission of a report.

A second round of award applications will be announced in late summer, 2022.

Applications should be submitted by email attachment, with the subject line DSNA AWARD APPLICATION and sent to:  

Edward Finegan, DSNA President