Newsletter Spring 2023

Table of Contents

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; deadline for submissions for the Fall 2023 issue is Friday 25 August 2023. You can also see and share what’s happening on DSNA’s Member Forum, Facebook, and Twitter

David Vancil has published a collection of poetry, Expiation: War and Its Discontents (Kelsay Books, 2022). It’s available for purchase on and on the publisher’s website.

Dabney A. Bankert‘s book, Philology in Turbulent Times: Joseph Bosworth, His Dictionary, and the Recovery of Old English has been published as part of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies series Publications of the Dictionary of Old English. Bankert’s detailed analysis of the creation of Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary was supported by two Laurence Urdang DSNA awards.

Anatoly Liberman’s book, Take My Word for It: A Dictionary of English Idioms, announced in the Fall 2022 edition of this newsletter, is now available from the University of Minnesota Press. For a print or digital review copy, you are invited to email

Conference Update

Countdown to DSNA 24, which happens in 2023

We’re now less than two months away from our biennial meeting at the University of Colorado, Boulder, starting on May 31st. The early-bird registration period has ended now, but you can still come! Head to the conference registration page to book yourself a seat at the table.

Lexicographers who work on Indigenous languages are coming from all over North America to talk about their work at the conference. The conference will also feature, on Saturday morning, a workshop on the role of lexicons in NLP (natural language processing). We have a panel on synonym relations, and of course a wide range of papers on dictionaries and lexicography in several languages. 

A special feature of the conference is an exhibit about the making of Merriam-Webster’s Third International Dictionary (W3), assembled from the papers of Philip Gove. The exhibit is full of items that only lexicographers could love.

Do you (or your publisher) have promotional materials for your books that you want to make available for attendees? If so, please write to me and I’ll tell you where to send them.

Finally, the conference will feature a banquet on Friday night (at CU), with an address by outgoing president Ed Finegan. Entertainment afterwards? Volunteers have not come forward, but are welcome!

Here’s our campus home, the University Memorial Center. It’s easy walking distance from residence halls (for those who choose on-campus accommodation), and also a mere stone’s throw from the bus stop for the HOP bus that takes you to and from our partner hotels.

sandstone building surrounded by a bicyclist, benches, cafe tables, bushes, trees, and blue sky.

The University Memorial Center (UMC), © University of Colorado

The UMC has a food court on its ground floor with some chain franchises and the Alfred Packer Grill, named for a man immortalized in Colorado history for his cannibalism. But fear not, the food is quite good and vegetarian options are available. The UMC is also walking distance from “The Hill,” the local neighborhood where there are many eateries catering to students and staff. But if you’re staying on campus, you get breakfast and lunch “free” – which is to say, they’re included in the residence hall plan. You will get your meals at C4C (Center for Community), the university’s premier dining experience that offers cuisines from around the world. It’s a 5-minute walk from the UMC.

Sandstone building against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Rows of bicycles in the foreground, students walking.

The Center for Community (C4C), © University of Colorado

You may be feeling déjà vu all over again from studying these two pictures, owing to the delightful thematic unity of architecture on the CU campus. Nearly all buildings are either built from or clad in native sandstone, which comes from quarries near Boulder. The blue skies in both pictures are also typical; Colorado gets about 300 days of sunshine per year.

If you’re not registered yet, it’s time to book now! We have been able to secure only a handful of specially-priced rooms at our partner hotels because the world comes to Boulder in the summertime. So don’t miss out. It will be a great conference!

-Orin Hargraves

CFP: Dictionaries Special Issue on Indigenous Lexicography

Indigenous Lexicography: A Special Issue of Dictionaries – Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America

This special issue centers the work of Indigenous language champions and scholars, particularly anthropologists and linguists, who are engaged in active collaborations on dictionary projects for communities both as forms of language documentation and as essential tools in language revitalization.

Coinciding with the beginning of the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022–2032, the special issue provides a platform to highlight the unique role of dictionaries in Indigenous communities and the inspiring work in which Indigenous lexicographers and their partners are engaged.

For under-resourced languages spoken by Indigenous communities, dictionaries contain crucial historical, cultural and territorial information. When languages become endangered, dictionaries often become primary tools for language learning. In language communities that have few written records, lexicography can be very time-consuming and labor-intensive. In some cases, communities are working to build new dictionaries, the first of their kind for a language or a dialect, while in others, communities are using legacy language documentation to compile new dictionaries to serve wider audiences.

In this special issue, we highlight the specific needs and strategic goals that speakers of Indigenous languages have for their dictionary projects and reflect on the challenges that communities face in realizing these goals. All the projects and partnerships in this special issue are examples of what we call “Relational Lexicography,” a shift towards dictionaries that are created by and with speakers and learners of under-resourced languages themselves, which recognize the relationships between speakers, between dialects, and also the relationships that exist between community language workers and academics.

We invite submissions that contribute to and center community perspectives in dictionary-making.

While we hope that the following suggested topics might provide inspiration for a range of submissions, we anticipate that proposals will likely extend beyond these themes:

  • technologies for dictionary making
  • incorporating dialects and speaker variation into dictionaries
  • challenges and benefits of multimedia dictionaries
  • open-access dictionaries
  • challenges and benefits of online versus print dictionaries
  • historic or legacy format dictionaries and dictionary-making
  • ways to include speakers’ relationships in dictionary-making
  • examples of community/academic collaborations in dictionary-making
  • the process and development of dictionary projects
  • new word creation and inclusion in dictionaries
  • the inclusion of archaic words and traditional cultural content in dictionaries
  • reviews of dictionary projects (complete or in development)

Journal information:

Dictionaries: The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes articles on all aspects of lexicography, as well as from areas of linguistic inquiry that relate to lexicography, and from the study of reference works in general as they bear on dictionary-making. The journal’s regular special sections include “Reference Works in Progress” and “Teaching Dictionaries” (on lexicography-oriented pedagogy), and “Reviews.”

For more information, visit

Submission details:
If you are interested in submitting a paper for this special issue, please submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bio note about each contributor written in the third person and indicate the type of paper you are interested in submitting, including regular paper, reference works in progress, or a review of a lexicon or lexicography website. Please send your proposal to the co-guest-editors, Mark Turin <> and Christine Schreyer <>.

Proposal submission deadline: May 1, 2023
Full paper hard deadline: August 15, 2023 for a December 2023 publication (Volume 44, Issue 2)

Paper submissions that miss the August deadline will be considered, pending peer review, for inclusion in a forthcoming general issue of Dictionaries. In order to see this special issue into production in 2023, we have very little flexibility on the timeline. Thank you in advance for your understanding!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to co-guest-editors: Mark Turin and Christine Schreyer.

Column: Quotations

Well-Known Words?

At times when working with quotations, I’m reminded of how cultural assumptions may change through the generations; what was a natural part of the common quotation stock (if for an educated audience) in one generation can through the decades become a much more niche item; likely to be found within academic discussions of a particular area. Most recently, I was prompted to think about this through coming across a quotation used in the 1920s. The Church Times, the British weekly newspaper covering the Anglican Church and related matters, habitually has at the foot of its leader column an extract from the newspaper of a hundred years before. This is evidently chosen for its relevance to current events; no doubt the ups and downs of British politics prompted the choice of an extract from “Mr Bonar Law’s majority,” which appeared in the Church Times of 24 November, 1922. The Conservative politician Andrew Bonar Law (1858–1923) had become Prime Minister in the previous month, following the fall of his predecessor, the Liberal David Lloyd George (1863–1945), who in his turn had held the office since the fall of H. H. Asquith in 1916. The Church Times, in reflecting on this history, had commented that:

He will … remember that the last two Prime Ministers have fallen from power not from defeat of their measures in Parliament, but from dissension and intrigue among their supporters. It is not good that a Prime Minister should continually be haunted by that kind of fear which beset the priest of Nemi,

The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.

Tellingly, the quotation is used without either attribution or further explanation: clearly the paper’s readership would be expected to identify the reference and decode its meaning without difficulty. They would have known that it came from Thomas Babington Macaulay’s poem “The Battle of Lake Regillus”, published as one of his Lays of Ancient Rome in 1842. The Lays, narrative verses in ballad form retelling stories from legends surrounding the early history of Rome, and seen as reflecting ideals of honour, bravery, and self-sacrifice, embedded themselves in popular culture. The book was a popular success: a first edition of 750 copies was sold out by December 1842, occasioning a reprint of 500 copies. It was also, initially at least, a critical success, but that was to change. The poet Matthew Arnold in On Translating Homer (1860) referred disparagingly to “the pinch-beck Roman Ballads of Lord Macaulay”. When reproached for undervaluing Macaulay, he doubled down: “Let me say frankly that, to my mind, a man’s power to detect the ring of false metal in those Lays is a good measure of his fitness to give an opinion about poetical matters at all.” Macaulay’s work, to Arnold, represented what George Orwell in a 1942 essay on Rudyard Kipling was to call “good bad poetry”. Orwell thought that “good bad poetry” might “reek of sentimentality”, but he admitted its power: “Poems of this kind, are capable of giving true pleasure to those who can see clearly what is wrong with them. One could fill a fair-sized anthology with good bad poems, if it were not for the significant fact that good bad poetry is usually too well known to be worth reprinting.” With his words, Orwell identifies a key intersect with the world of quotations. Regardless of critical opinion as to literary worth, once a poem becomes truly well-known through frequent encounter, the likelihood that extracts will feed into the public vocabulary as part of the stock of “familiar quotations” is greatly increased.

In the case of Macaulay’s Lays, importantly, the book found a market in the burgeoning British educational system for boys: not just among the fee-paying schools of the affluent classes, but in the expanding national education system as well. This was the period in which schoolboys would regularly be set “repetition”: the learning by heart of a piece of poetry to be recited, and extracts from Macaulay’s Lays were a favoured choice. Winston Churchill’s schooldays were not marked by academic success, but he recalls in My Early Life (1930) of his first years at Harrow School in the late 1880s that he caused astonishment by winning a prize open to the whole school by “reciting twelve hundred lines of Macaulay’s ‘Lays of Ancient Rome’ without making a single mistake.”

There were four individual poems among the Lays. “Horatius” details the defence of the last bridge into the city by three heroes against invading armies, and was probably the best known of the poems: The Lay of Horatius, with notes, was published as a single item in 1887. “The Battle of Lake Regillus” describes the later comprehensive defeat by the Romans of the combined forces massed against them, and the particular quotation with which this piece is concerned was given additional assistance to public knowledge by a significant quotation of one passage. In ancient Rome, the “priest of Nemi” was the priest of the sanctuary of Diana beside the lake of Nemi, south-east of Rome. He was the rex Nemorensis [king of the grove], a priest-king who had attained his position by killing his predecessor, and was destined to be killed in turn by the man who would succeed him. In 1890, the anthropologist and classical scholar James Frazer used the story as the basis of his study of sacred kingship in his book The Golden Bough, a study of mythology and religion focusing on what he believed was a pattern to be discerned in the religions of classical antiquity. In this, a priest impersonates a seasonal god who dies in the autumn and is revived in the spring. Frazer’s title was taken from the account in the Aeneid of Aeneas’ visit to the underworld. According to this, Aeneas is told by the Sybil that in order to be admitted to the underworld, he must first find and cut off from a sacred tree a branch made of gold. A fourth-century commentator linked this story with tales of the sanctuary of Diana, when a would-be priest (often a runaway slave) had to break off a branch from a sacred tree before he could kill the current holder of the office.

Frazer’s study was to expand from the two volumes of the first edition of 1890, to the twelve-volume third edition published in 1916. The Golden Bough had wide circulation and significant literary impact. While his identification of the story of a dying and reviving god as a kind of universal myth underlying many religions was criticized by scholars in his own field, the book was warmly received and widely read by an educated public. T. S. Eliot, in his “Notes” to his poem The Waste Land, acknowledged his debt to The Golden Bough, calling it a book that had “influenced our generation profoundly.” Macaulay’s lines evoking the lake of Nemi and its priest appeared on the title page of the first volume as the epigraph to the book:

The still glassy lake that sleeps
Beneath Aricia’s trees—
Those trees in whose dim shadow
The ghastly priest doth reign,
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.

This would have helped cement “the priest who slew the slayer” into the vocabulary of a literate audience. By the time John Buchan published his thriller The Dancing Floor (1926), the words were well-known enough to be quoted without reference to their author. In the book, the hero, Edward Leithen, is alone on the Greek island of Plakos trying to prevent the killing of the heroine, immured in her house by a hostile crowd. The odds are against him, but he reflects: “And anyhow I had a pistol, and I would not miss the runner. ‘The priest who slew the slayer and shall himself be slain’—the tag came unbidden to my lips.” Buchan, evidently, could assume a level of familiarity with the words in a reader of his story, just as the readers of the Church Times in 1922, quoted at the beginning of this piece, would have known them. And it is reasonable to suppose that the familiarity would have continued for the first half of the century, with Macaulay’s Lays still being encountered (especially by boys) in their early years of schooling. J. J. Conington, a British crime writer of the 1930s, used it as a source for a title: his novel In Whose Dim Shadow (1935). While there is no suggestion that the subject matter links with the concept of the priest and the sacred grove, the borrowing of the phrase argues familiarity with the poem.

From the second half of the twentieth century, the picture changes: there is diminishing evidence for Macaulay’s lines being quoted, still less seen as a “tag”. A search for the key words on Ngram Viewer shows a sharp decline in the graph of evidence. Such instances as there are tend to be more sharply focused, and to come from a specific field. The British historian George Kitson Clark (1900–75), delivering the Ford Lectures at Oxford in 1959–60, employed them to illuminate what he saw as the natural fate of the historian: “‘The Priest who slew the slayer and shall himself be slain’; that is, and should be, the condition of the scholar who tries to describe any period of history, and the turn-over is likely to be most rapid for those who try their hand on Victorian England which is the subject of so many men’s active thought and research.” Some decades later, the words were also employed to evoke the situation of the Australian politician Bob Hawke (1929–2019), Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991. In June 1991, the Prime Minister managed to survive a leadership challenge from Paul Keating, but the end was in sight. As A. W. Sparkes described his situation in Talking Politics: A Wordbook (1994), “Meanwhile, Mr Hawke, still Labor Prime Minister (but only just) waited, like the priest of Nemi, for the decisive stroke from a colleague:

The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.”

A reference is given: “Macaulay. Quoted, Frazer, 1911: p. 1.” That may of course represent scholarly diligence, but I suspect that it also indicates that the days in which this could be assumed to be a tag known by all are past. It might however survive to a limited extent in the political world; not because Macaulay is now either read or recited by boys likely to grow up into the world of politics, but because it does enshrine a vivid image all too relevant to a leader who has successfully toppled a predecessor and who may well suffer the same fate.

-Elizabeth Knowles

In Memoriam: Gerard Morris, 1947–2022

The Society has learned of the passing of Gerard Morris, a member of the DSNA since 2017. An obituary of Morris is available through the Fellowship of American Bibliographic Societies.

Gifts to the DSNA

DSNA is grateful to the donors who have come forward recently to help fund the Society’s programs, including its journal and the upcoming biennial, as well as the small-grants program for practical or scholarly lexicographic projects that was launched this past year. The costs of mounting a biennial conference far exceed what registration fees cover, and the generosity of institutional and private donors helps keep registration fees manageable while ensuring a successful conference for all attendees. Such generosity also helps all attendees enjoy the banquet and the camaraderie of other DSNA members on that special occasion.

A list of the institutions and individuals who contributed in support of the biennial meeting will appear in the program booklet, but I wanted in this note to highlight the very generous contributions made by David Jost and Joan Houston Hall. Joan, by the way, did more than make a substantial personal contribution: she persuaded the American Dialect Society to contribute funds toward the success of the biennial. In a similar vein, Wendalyn Nichols prompted Cambridge University Press to donate to the success of the biennial. Other members have added a donation or a banquet ticket in their registration form. The registration form is one convenient way to make a contribution if you wish. Alternatively, you can donate here.

To those who have contributed and those who are able in future to support DSNA’s programs, I express my gratitude and appreciation on behalf of all those who benefit from your generosity.

-Ed Finegan

News from the DSNA Office

Things are springy at the Dictionary Society! The website has a crisp new look; the 2023 Election of Officers is underway; and our return to in-person conferencing is on the horizon. If you’d like to join the fun…

Like everything at the DSNA, these projects were made possible by generous volunteers: Vice President Kory Stamper led the website redesign. The Nominating Committee—Michael Adams, Orin Hargraves, Donna Farina, and Grant Barrett—proposed the ballot. And Conference Organizer Orin Hargraves is putting the finishing touches on what promises to be a groundbreaking biennial.

Among the presenters slated to appear at DSNA 24 will be the first recipients of the DSNA Project Grant, Félix Cortés and Iara Mantenuto of the San Sebastián del Monte Mixtec Dictionary. (Thanks again to the Awards Committee—Donna Farina, Jeannette Allsopp, and Lewis Lawyer.) And among the projects that will emerge from DSNA 24 will be a special issue of Dictionaries on Indigenous lexicography, orchestrated by Mark Turin and Christine Schreyer with the support of Editor M. Lynne Murphy.

All of this brings to fruition ongoing work of the Executive Board. Meetings in June 2022, October 2022, January 2023, and April 2023 focused on Society support for DSNA 24 and Dictionaries

Finally, I’d like to share a summary of the 2022 Member Survey. The experiences shared by current and former members confirm the value of the Society’s current services and publications. Members are particularly enthusiastic for the journal and the biennial conference. Thanks to those of you who responded; your thoughts will continue inform the work of the Society in years to come!

-Lindsay Rose Russell

Upcoming Conferences

Publication Information

The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the spring and fall. It is currently edited by Rachel Fletcher and Lindsay Rose Russell. 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. 47 No. 1 (2023)
Cumulative issue #95