Publishing Information Fall 2020

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. 44 No. 2 (2020)

Cumulative issue #90

Quotations Elizabeth Knowles Fall 2020

Angel of the Pestilence

Elizabeth Knowles, April 2020

In the last week of January 2020, when I was exploring possible walks in the vicinity of the market town of Wantage, I noticed an unusual commemorative inscription on the (exterior) north wall of the chancel of the parish church of St Michael’s Wantage. (I had no idea, of course, that a couple of months later we would be one of many countries grappling with a twenty-first century version of a “pestilence.”) The inscription reads: “Between this Wall and the pathway were interred from Sept: 29th to Oct: 15th 1832 the bodies of sixteen persons, who with three others of this Town had died of the Asiatic Cholera, the ravages of which disease were mercifully terminated by Him, who alone could say to the Angel of the Pestilence—‘It is enough, stay now thine hand.’”  As the diligent editor of a dictionary of quotations, I immediately wondered about the source of the quotation, and how recognizable it would have been to the community for whom it was first put up. Ironically, by the time I was able to investigate it in detail my resources were somewhat limited, since lockdown in response to that modern pestilence of Coronavirus had closed the Bodleian and restricted my researches to what could be done from my desk at home, but I have at least been able to establish an outline picture. (I should perhaps say at the outset that my interest and investigation have been lexicographical in nature rather than theological.)

The OED entry for cholera (updated in March 2012) is helpful in providing a context for what happened in Wantage in 1832. It gives 1807 as the first recorded date of what is now the most common sense of the word, denoting an acute infectious disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and frequently occurring in epidemics or pandemics. It provides the further information that it is endemic in parts of South Asia, and that the alternative term “Asiatic cholera” is still used. Cholera as defined here reached Western Europe in a pandemic of 1831, of which the outbreak in Wantage must clearly have been a part.

While it seemed likely that the source was biblical, and (given the date) from the Authorized Version, I did not recognize the words from the “Bible” entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Research at home confirmed that they did not appear in ODQ; nor could I find them referenced in other collections. It took further work online to trace them to 2 Samuel 24:15-16, verses which recount a story of divine punishment enacted in the form of “a pestilence upon Israel” in the days of king David. Initially, seventy thousand died “from Dan even to Beer-sheba.” However, when Jerusalem itself was threatened, there was a change. In the words of the Authorized Version, “The Lord … said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.”  As a churchgoing Anglican, I am reasonably familiar with texts forming part of the Lectionary, but I had never come across these verses being read or preached on. I wondered therefore how recognizable they would have been when the epitaph was placed on the church wall, and undertook some further exploration.  I was interested both in the use of the unattributed quotation itself, and in the phrase “Angel of the Pestilence.”  

While I did not find significant general uses of the quotation from 2 Samuel, the Book of Common Prayer (1662) includes the text of a prayer for use “In the time of any common Plague or Sickness.” This refers directly to the “plague of Pestilence” which killed “threescore and ten thousand” in the time of David, and clearly alludes to the story in 2 Samuel 24:15-16. It is highly likely to have been used in in churches during the cholera outbreak of the 1830s, and would thus have ensured familiarity with the relevant biblical passage.

 “Angel of the Pestilence” as a phrase does appear to have been used in the context of 1832. It occurs in 1833 as the title of a poem by “J. W.”, appearing in The Aurora Borealis: a literary annual, edited by “Members of the Society of Friends”, and published in Newcastle upon Tyne and London. “The Angel of the Pestilence” in this collection is an eight-page dramatic poem in which the angel personifies the deadly infection spreading across the world. The phrase appears again two years later in the title of a prose reflection on “the Angel of the Pestilence”  as “the instrument of inflicting that disorder which hath lately visited the nations, and smitten its millions” (“The Angel of the Pestilence” in John Cox (ed.) The Friend of Sinners, 1835).  I take this to refer to the cholera pandemic.

From the admittedly rather limited resources I can currently look at, it does not look as though “Angel of the Pestilence” developed any very substantial use, other than in the particular context of the 1830s. There was of course already an established rival of which it is presumably a more specialized variant. OED dates the more familiar “angel of death” from the mid sixteenth century, and Byron’s 1815 poem The Destruction of Sennacherib provides a high-profile example from the early nineteenth century of a similarly fatal angelic visitor, in the couplet “For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, /And breathed on the face of the foe as he passed.” (Lines which, of course, are likely to be found across a whole range of dictionaries of quotations.) It may well be that “Angel of the Pestilence” it is too specific to have the general utility that marks the linguistically successful quotation or phrase. When John Bright, Liberal politician and reformer, spoke in the House of Commons in February 1855 describing the impact on British households of losses in the Crimea, the more general phrase gave his words the necessary impact: “The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings.” A personification which limited the agency through which the angel exerted power would not have served him. Added to that, as time goes on, “pestilence” to a degree loses some range of usage, and acquires a more archaic flavour—although to the inhabitants of Wantage in 1832, faced with a terrifying new disease, it was presumably a vivid and immediate image. In terms of quotations, I find the Wantage epitaph a striking example of the way in which local circumstances may mean that in a certain time and place, a quotation that might more widely be considered obscure can be very well known.

State of Lexicography Orin Hargraves Fall 2020

The World English Dictionary that the World Didn’t Need

Orin Hargraves

Twenty years ago, the Society’s journal Dictionaries (No. 21) published a long and detailed review of the Encarta World English Dictionary (EWED) by Sidney Landau: a DSNA fellow, former Society president, and perhaps the most highly respected name in American lexicography for his widely read Dictionaries: the Art and Craft of Lexicography. In his 13-page review, Sidney takes apart and discards nearly every promotional claim made for the dictionary and then analyzes it carefully in comparison to its market peers, finding it wanting in nearly every respect.

I was one of the “more than 250 lexicographers from 10 countries” (a promotional claim) that worked on EWED over the three or so years when it went from flawed vision to published book. Now, 20 years after the fact, is a good time to reflect on EWED’s stunted career. When it was published, EWED was put forward as “a publishing event that will set the standard for all future dictionaries.” Its publisher (Bloomsbury, a then fairly young UK publisher) and financial backers (Microsoft) envisioned for it an eminent place on the reference bookshelf beside the other respected English dictionaries of the day.

Today, you can buy remaindered copies of EWED (updated only once, in 2004) for less than a fiver and you will probably have to search very deep in the stacks to find it in any library. What went wrong? I’ve reconstructed my involvement with EWED  from diary entries over the years I worked on it and added a few reflections at the end.

The story begins in London, which I was about to quit, having lived there for most of the ten previous years. During that time I had established a meagre livelihood as a freelance lexicographer, having worked on various projects for Longman and Cambridge.

20 March 1996: I had a meeting with Kathy Rooney [publisher at Bloomsbury] this afternoon. I signed a confidentiality agreement so restrictive that I probably run the risk of my heirs being sued by writing about the subject of our talk here – but anyway it emerges there is an all new, from scratch native speaker dictionary in the works and I might have the opp’ty to play a role in its formation – the next few weeks should tell.

Our continuing talks were fruitful, and I soon returned to the States. I began work compiling the headword list for letter A and also recruiting other freelancers to work on the project, for a bounty of £50 per head. My impression at this point was that money was no object for whatever needed to be done to move the dictionary forward.

18 Oct 1996: Kathy Rooney [now editor-in-chief of EWED] and Faye Carney [executive editor], her right hand, visited last weekend. It was one of these classic fall days. We had lunch [in nearby Hanover, PA] in a big sunny room overlooking lawns. It went splendidly. They asked if I would work in London for 2-3 months next year and I said yes, not wanting to say no, and wanting to keep a door open. . . . At present I’m still rounding up lexicographers for them and editing a section that one of their English lexies compiled.

I continued to work on EWED for the next three months, defining. At the time I was living rent free but with no other income at a meditation retreat center, where I was the caretaker and cook; the income from Bloomsbury was useful, and the work agreeable. We worked on Windows-based software, homegrown at Bloomsbury just for EWED. The part of the screen reserved  for the definition was tiny and if you went over 25 words it beeped at you, irritatingly. This was to discourage prolix definitions.

On New Year’s Day, 1997, I wrote “I can picture one version of myself just plodding along here for the next 2 or 3 years, feeding at the Bloomsbury trough, arranging occasional diversions here and there – but this seems too stultifying.” Two weeks later I wrote “Bloomsbury requires cogitation which suddenly I have little patience for. At best I seem to be get in a couple of hours a day, much preferring to attend to all the things that want doing around here [at the meditation center].”

The opportunity arose for me to spend some months in Australia with my meditation teachers. Though I knew it would mean much less or no work on the dictionary, it was appealing to me at the time: the teachers were getting on in years and I knew I would never have another such opportunity. So I packed up and set off for Perth, Western Australia, pretty much leaving EWED behind and becoming completely absorbed into the busy life of the meditation center there. I didn’t return to the states until late April, and didn’t properly get back to work on EWED till June, where I find this entry in my diary.

6 June 1997: The week has passed quickly and appears in memory as a steady slog in the dictionary, broken up with minor diversions. This is of necessity. Bloomsbury is up in arms at my long idleness; industry is necessary to regain their high opinion. It’s been tedious but I’ve kept at it with good results.

Six weeks later, I’m still at it:

21 July 1997: My nose is almost continuously buried in the dictionary as I dutifully try to redeem myself with Bloomsbury. I think it’s working, and a side benefit has been the fairly hefty earnings – about $750 a week for the 15 or so hours I give it. The center suffers proportionally and is in a state . . .

In September I returned to London for the promised working on site at Bloomsbury, which I began after spending some time on a retreat with my teachers in Wiltshire.

28 Sept 1997: I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the very sudden transition from meditation retreat to Soho Square office and I spent the first 2 days in shock, waiting only for the day to end but then sleeping fitfully under the weight of stress. By week’s end, however, I seem to have made the adjustment and had mastered behaving, perhaps even feeling, like an ordinary working stiff. The office and its inhabitants are all agreeable, save for the “other American,” with whom I share a space: he’s a sad divorcé who swears too much and is disillusioned with life.

It may sound exotic to work in office overlooking Soho Square; it was not. Our workspace was a tiny converted storage closet, in which three adjacent work stations had been set up, with a narrow aisle behind them. One of my colleagues lay down in this aisle one day to rest; we complained because we were then unable to scoot our chairs back. But the work had to go on, and we all adapted.

11 Oct 1997: I am caught up in the demanding routine of work, which takes far more time than I ever thought it would. Though the weeks seem to pass quickly the days drag by; the work is so tedious and lacking in variety. I had hoped there might be a variety of things to do here, but the production schedule is such that there is nothing for anyone to do but work, work, work. I’m checking sections of the dictionary, giving it the penultimate read and allegedly getting it into publishable form. I am unused to dedicating hours of unbroken attention to such a task, and it is dreary.

8 Nov 1997: Work, to my surprise, has settled into an easily manageable routine. In the first weeks here I never imagined this would happen, it just seemed too unnatural to spend so many hours a day concentrating in front of a monitor and I was sure it could only be done by grim force, but now it comes easily. And suddenly only three weeks remain in my 10-week onsite commitment.

I took a short vacation on the continent following the time in London and returned to the States in December, continuing EWED work remotely as I had done before. It was not all roses but it was by then my longest running lexicography gig and still going strong.

22 Dec 1997: The dictionary rolls on in the background with unprecedented dullness. A long section I have now contains block, blood, blow, and blue – all major quagmires. And this is only B. After more months of this I’ll be barking, but oh-so-flush with cash.

14 Feb 1998: I’ve received via email a lengthy feedback report on one of the batches of work I edited months ago. It has had a galvanizing effect, the thrust of which is to work myself out of this lexicographical gig as soon as circumstances permit. It’s mostly an ego thing and comes down to this: I don’t conceive of myself as having lived these 44 years so I would have the opportunity to quietly read on my screen the pedantic criticism of this ___________, Bloomsbury’s ex-OUP “senior checker” who has clearly relished her role of documenting the minute failings in all that she sees. If I stay in this business, really all I have to look forward to is becoming her or becoming _________, well-intentioned and bright but charged with an impossible task of turning out the perfect dictionary in record time, using only mortals.

21 Feb 1998: I purr away at the dictionary, sometimes contentedly, sometimes exasperatedly. It is a monumental task of monotony but it pays so exceedingly well I couldn’t think of abandoning it—not now anyway.

11 May 1998: The weekdays follow a set pattern: after breakfast I work without respite on the dictionary till I finish the day’s quota, being at least 1/5 of the batch in hand. If I’m lucky I finish by 2:30.

24 Aug 1998: There is this raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth: Bloomsbury has drastically cut my pay (owing mostly to budget mismanagement, I think), and I’m suddenly earning $200 a week less than formerly. I’m trying every weapon in my arsenal to squeeze more dimes out of them, so far without success.

28 Aug 1998: Bloomsbury has relented half-way on their swingeing pay cut and restored some $ (and dignity) to my checks, but not before an awfully bad taste developed in my mouth about the whole affair.

6 September 1998: Little passes under my nose but the dictionary. I don’t actually mind doing it, I even enjoy it a good deal of the time, but I don’t like the notion that life is ever passing by as I do it. It requires so much of my time that there is none to reflect about what I’d rather be doing. I suppose I should be thankful.

7 Oct 1998: Bloomsbury has not restored me to the full glory of £19 an hour, which I feel that I so richly deserve, so I’m going to take on a tentative project from OUP for $30 an hour. If it’s enjoyable I might push over Bloomsb. altogether, though it’s probably prudent to keep a foot in both doors.

11 Nov 1998: Dictionary duty has finally stabilized and now won’t require anything but my time and attention for the next several months. OUP is a reasonable afternoon diversion for 2 or 3 hours, and the morning is still Bloomsbury. Kathy Rooney has finally relented and restored my pay to what it was before the August cut.

21 Jan 1999: The dictionary has arrived at the most stultifying stage, where one is asked to quickly review hundreds of entries, checking that they are technically complete and correct. It requires no creative effort, only mind-numbing attention to detail.

4 April 1999: Bloomsbury, at last, is in death throes and I expect the dictionary will be all finished on Friday.

The published dictionary appeared in July 1999 with much promotional fanfare. Sidney was not alone in being underwhelmed by its achievement; it received at best lukewarm reviews everywhere. There are many reasons for its failure but they can all be summarized under the heading of the main one: you can’t write a quality dictionary of English from scratch in three years using a workforce of internationally dispersed lexicographers with little training, varying ability, and wavering commitment.

Having built the database, Bloomsbury (and Microsoft, initially) were eager to recoup their investment, and very soon spun off a reduced version of EWED to compete with the “college” dictionaries. It was called Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary: The First Dictionary For The Internet Age. A serious miscalculation there was that the dictionary wasn’t published on the internet. This volume also did not succeed in making its way onto the reference shelf of many schools, libraries, or high school graduates.

A couple of years later, both EWED and the college dictionary were updated, now with “Webster’s” added to the titles of both. This didn’t work either and was, to my mind, the dictionary version of jumping the shark.

Today, the data from the EWED database has disappeared from public view and it isn’t even licensed on any of the dictionary aggregator sites—a shame, to my mind, because there are thousands of solid and original definitions that stand in good comparison to others and that merit study. No titles drawn from EWED data are in print. The reference shelf of contemporary dictionaries in book form no longer exists, Microsoft has mothballed the Encarta brand, and Bloomsbury, though no longer in the dictionary business, has achieved great international success in many other areas of publishing. Think Harry Potter, for example.

I benefited greatly from my association with EWED and I’m grateful for the experience and the income it provided. If the money and the market had been there, it could have been raised to a higher standard and I think it would have eventually established itself beside its more respected peers. But the money was withdrawn and the market collapsed.

I have lunch with Kathy and Faye whenever I’m in London; we reminisce nostalgically about the old days in Soho Square.

History Middle English Dictionary Staff Fall 2020

The Staff of the Middle English Dictionary: 1952 to completion

David Jost

“Those since 1952 are listed in the headnotes and endnotes to the individual published letters.” “Those” refers to the editors and production staff of the Middle English Dictionary. The quotation is from page iv of the Middle English Dictionary, Plan and Bibliography, Second Edition, by Robert E. Lewis, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2007. The purpose of this brief article is to use these headnotes and endnotes as well as fascicle covers to list the staff since 1952. I use these sources exclusively, so I do not capture such things as facts or name changes that occurred after these sources were published.

To do justice to the staff lists it would not do to simply list staff alphabetically. The list needs to be broken down into four periods to give a sense of how the work was done. These periods are: 1. Hans Kurath, 2. Sherman M. Kuhn a., 3. Kuhn b., 4. Robert E. Lewis.

1. Kurath A-F.  E was completely done by Kurath as Editor and Kuhn as Associate Editor.

F saw the addition of other staff, some of whom worked on many following letters:  Charles E. Palmer. Margaret S. Ogden, James W. Downer, Helen M. Snyder, Richard L. McKelvey, and Elizabeth S. Uhr.

E and F were done according to a new plan that was devised by Kurath. Once it was successful, letters done by a team preceding Kurath headed by Thomas A. Knott were reedited. These letters were A, B, C and L and parts of D and M {see MED A Preface}.

During the reediting of A through D under the direction of Kurath and Kuhn, Palmer, Ogden, Snyder, and McKelvey continued their work, and Helen W. Kao joined them (for all four letters) as did Alice A. Shannon (B-C) and William R. Van Riper (A-B), and for D only Lidie M. Howes, John Reidy, and Johannes Hedberg. The staff was assisted by the compositors Geraldine L. Preston (B), Jean P. Mueller (B-D), and Mary K. Wilde (C-D).

2. Kuhn a. G-L. Kuhn takes over the leadership in G (though Kurath is credited with some work in G and M). John Reidy is Associate Editor for G-L.

In Kuhn 1 we see again Palmer (G-L), Ogden (G-I), Snyder (G), McKelvey (G-L), Kao (G-L), Shannon (now Ann Shannon Paden–I), Howes (G-H).  New members of the staff during this time were Thomas J. Garbaty (G), James L. Rosier (G-H), Lazaros A. Varnas (H-K), Suksan Kim (H-J), Katherine Garvin (H), Donald B. Sands (H), Frances McSparran (I-L), Ardath M. Clark (I-K), and Bernard Van’t Hul (L).  Compositors were Mueller (G), Wilde (G-L—in I-L also editor), Nancy D. Allison (H-L), and John T. Lamendella (G).

 3. Kuhn b. M-Q. Kuhn remains as editor until P, but I run this era through Q because the events seem to me to fit this segmentation best.

Around the beginning of this period a grant from the Mellon Foundation helped bring in a new group of editors mostly with newly minted PhDs.

Several members of the staff of period 2 remained, Palmer through O, McKelvey, Shannon (now Ann), and Kao through Q.  Howes returned for M-Q on the production side, and Wilde was still compositor and editor in M. Reidy participated for part of M (Associate Editor) and then returned for O (Consulting Editor in O) through Q (Review Editor in Q). McSparran (M-N) and Van’t Hul (M-O) round out the staff that had worked on Kuhn 1. The new members of the staff as of M are Mary Jane Williams (M-Q—compositor in M and then editor), Roy R. Barkley (M-Q), Elaine Tuttle Hansen (M-P), David A. Jost (M-Q), Stephen F. Lappert (M-Q ), Lister M. Matheson (M-Q), Robert C. Rice (M-Q). A few editors joined the staff near the end of this period: Robert E. Lewis (P), Karis Crawford (O-Q), G.W.  Abernethy (Q), William C. Hale (Q), and Joseph P. Pickett (Q).

On the production side there are many new faces.   Walter C. Bak (M-O), Veidre Burdsall (M), Martha Fessler Krieg (M-P), Jennifer C. Hoff (P-Q), Eric Jager (P-Q), Vincent P. McCarren (P-Q), Rose A. Melikan (P-Q), Marilyn S. Miller (P-Q). Joyce M. Wolford (P-Q), Erika V. Cassill (P), Jerrell D. Clark (P), Clifford E. Douglas (P),  Richard T. Kidder (P),  Jon D. Pheils (P), Delores J. Kuzma (Q), Patricia V. Lehman (Q).

4. Robert E. Lewis is Editor-in-Chief from Q through Z. Kuhn has the title Editor Emeritus in Q to S1 (first volume of S).

A number of staff from earliest periods are still working, including McKelvey through R, Kao through Z, and Shannon through T. Reidy is Review Editor through S2.

From period 3 staff remain also with the last letter worked on following their name: Barkley (S1), Jost (S1), Lappert (S2), Matheson (S2), Rice (R), Crawford (R), Abernethy (V), Hale (S2), Pickett (T), and Williams through Z, becoming a Review Editor in S2. Miller also served through Z and became an editor in S1-S2, a Review Editor in T and also Programmer and Systems Analyst.

Many new faces worked on the final letters:

Robert N. Mory (S1-Z),  Paul Acker (S1-T),  Marsha L. Dutton (S1-T), Anita F. Handelman (S1-T), Michael J. Phillips (S1-T), Cynthia R. Bland (S1-S2), Elizabeth S. Girsch (S2-Z–she became Review Editor in U), James M. Girsch (S2-Z), Marshal S. Grant (S2-Z), Mona L. Logarbo (S2-Z),  Douglas A. Moffat (S2-Z), Paul F. Schaffner (S2-Z),  Mary E. Housum (S2-T—also as Mary Elizabeth Ellzey in T), Jeffrey L. Singman (T- Z), Karen E. Mura (T-U), David W. Ruddy (U-Z), Barbara P.H. Grant (T and V).

As for Production, Howes was Head through almost all the remaining work. McCarren continued and as of T had the title Research Investigator. Hoff, Lehman, Melikan, and Miller remained through R and Jager, Kuzma, and Wolford through S2.

The rest of the Production Staff members in this period were new. They were Olivia L. Bottum (Head of Production for T and also on staff for R-S1 and U-Z— as Olivia B. Lenz for S2), Katherine A. Beltinick (R-S1–as Katherine A. Shelton for S2-T), Louise W. Palazzola (S2-Z), Michael P. Adams (S1-S2), Mary B. Evich (S1-S2), James M. Sutton (S1-S2), Rina Kor (S2-T and W-Z), Patrick M. Florance (T-Z), Susannah J. Baker (S2-T),  David W. Ruddy (S2-T–also editor; see above), Ekaterina M. Vladimirsky (T-V), Elaine L. Halleck (T-U), William R. Hosticka (T-U), Christopher R. Scherer (U-Z),  Diane M. Johnson (V-Z), Anne M. Scott (S2), Kathleen M. Militzer (T), Laura E. Cunniff (W-Z), Karen I. Pritula (W-Z).

Note that the above lists are by no means a complete history of MED staff. For more information see page iv-vi of the Plan referenced at the beginning of this article. Also for dates of publication of the fascicules of the MED see pp. 29-30 of the Plan.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Robert Lewis, Paul Schaffner, Vincent McCarren, Olivia Bottum, and Michael Adams who looked at this staff list. Any errors that remain are mine alone.

Education Fall 2020

Using Dictionaries for Sociolinguistic Inquiry in the College Classroom

Katie Welch

University of North Texas at Dallas

In the 2014 TED Talk “What makes a word ‘real’?” Anne Curzan mentions that she requires that students teach her two new slang words each time her class meets, a practice that is often employed by U.S.-based linguistics professors eager to keep up with trends in American English. A few semesters later, having adopted this practice while teaching a course titled Language of Now, I stood before a group of first year college students who had enrolled in the course as a means of completing a core curriculum requirement and asked them to share some slang words with me.

On that particular day, one word that stood out to me was boojie [buʒi]. As was the case with most of the words shared, I was not familiar with this term. When I probed further, the student explained that she used it to mean ‘uppity’ or ‘acting fancier than you actually are’. Given that the definition closely matched a word I did know and that she pronounced it with a telltale [ʒ], I immediately responded, “Oh, so it’s like a clipping of bourgeois?” The student furrowed her eyebrows in confusion, and as I glanced around the room at the rest of the class, their facial expressions were also not communicating any awareness of what I was asking. I quickly explained why I believed the two words might be related and, sensing the class was rapidly losing interest, I moved on.  

Once I got back to my office, however, I did a quick search in the Oxford English Dictionary, which confirmed my suspicion that boojie (as well as its many alternate spellings such as bourgie and boujee) was indeed derived from the French borrowing bourgeois. Something that particularly caught my attention about the OED entry was that, in addition to the usage note that boojie was “slang, chiefly depreciative,” the definition indicated that it originated in the African American speech community. When I cross-checked with the Urban Dictionary, the many entries I found for boojie also identified it as an abbreviated form of bourgeois but seemed to indicate an expanded use outside of the Black community. Some entries confirmed its depreciative nature, but additional searching revealed that a 2016 hip hop song by the Migos titled Bad and Boujee had not only popularized the term but also reappropriated its use.

As I reflected on this etymology, I realized that boojie encompassed many principles that I wanted my students to learn in the Language of Now class:

  1. that many words in English are a result of language contact and borrowing,
  2. that new words are often derived from various word formation processes (such as clipping),
  3. that African American English is a common source of linguistic innovation, and
  4. that popularization of slang often changes the word’s original meaning.

I also recognized that the same process I had undertaken to discover the etymology of boojie – consulting a variety of dictionaries and word frequency search engines – was a skillset that I wanted my students to likewise possess. Inspired, I sat down and created a new assignment for our course.

At the heart of the assignment is an internet-based scavenger hunt in which students role play as if they were lexicographers tasked with identifying the origins of boojie. As the students read through the 4-page narrative, the story directs the reader toward internet resources of varying degrees of credibility from the Urban Dictionary to Google Trends to the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as other search engines and readings. In keeping with the scavenger hunt theme, each part of the assignment acts as a clue that unlocks new information that students must then evaluate as they try to piece their discoveries together into an integrated whole. For example, at one point in the narrative, students discover that Google NGram indicates that the earliest instance of boojie in print was in the 1920s. They are then directed to an article excerpt by Tom Dalzell from the Do You Speak American? website which discusses examples of slang words such as groovy and boss that seemed new at the time but were actually just recycled from previous generations. Dalzell’s article also explains that one of the common origins of slang words is in African American vernacular, and he lists numerous examples of how slang has been shaped “consistently and generously from the slang of the black American urban experience” as well as multiple examples of slang words that originated from 1920’s- and 30’s-era jazz musicians (Dalzell, 2019). At this point in the exercise, students have not yet learned that boojie originated in African American speech communities, so the article provides crucial background information for when they do ultimately read the OED entry and this fact is disclosed.

This style of pedagogy is often referred to as a “narrative learning environment” in which the structure of the narrative guides learners in their inquiry. Since this is most students’ first exposure to these dictionaries and search engines, the narrative serves to introduce them to critical background information about each resource but does so in a way that allows students to maintain their assumed roles as experienced lexicographers, as seen in the excerpt below.

As a linguist, you often use the Oxford English Dictionary to look up the etymology of words but had presumed that boojie would be too new to be in the dictionary. But, if it dates back to the 1920s, it just might be there, you think to yourself. You open another browser.

As you type in, your heart starts beating faster as you wonder what you will find. Could this slang term that you randomly overheard at a party actually have “made it” into the OED? As you type boojie into the search bar and click “go”, your heart skips a beat. It’s there! Or, wait. Is it? The word at the top of the page is spelled bourgie, not boojie or boojee. Is this the same word?

The narrative guides the learner in highly practical ways, such as giving the URL needed for the next part of the hunt. Yet, the phrase “As a linguist, you often use the OED to . . .” keeps the learners positioned as experts while also giving necessary information about what purpose this dictionary serves. The narrative also guides the students’ thinking throughout the research process and provides a vehicle for them to make sense of the facts that they are gathering from each resource. Little clues such as “It’s there! Or, wait. Is it?” have a dual role in sense-making, the former communicating excitement at finding the entry in the OED and the latter highlighting the need to pay close attention to the entry because the bourgie spelling is different from previous results.

An important feature of this assignment is that while students are reading the narrative, they are also actively responding throughout. Every few paragraphs the students are instructed to pause their work and write information they have discovered. The responses grow in rigor and complexity throughout, with early tasks requiring that students simply report findings while later tasks ask the learners to triangulate information from multiple sources. The assignment concludes with the budding lexicographers composing a mock email to their boss in which they synthesize everything they have learned into a cohesive etymology. Determining boojie’s history requires that students grapple with sometimes-conflicting information. For example, Google NGram lists the earliest print appearance in the 1920s, while the OED cites a 1960s origin. And while the Urban Dictionary does accurately refer to the bourgeois connection, students learn through the assignment why this website may not be as reliable as other online dictionaries, thus necessitating the need to cross-reference.

This assignment has been quite successful, and students report how much they enjoy working through the narrative to solve the boojie mystery. Part of the assignment’s appeal is in the realization that “new” words sometimes have much lengthier and more storied pasts than we realize. Some students are particularly drawn to the sociolinguistic aspect of the African American community’s often-overlooked contributions to the English language. For first year college students who are used to a more prescriptive K12 curriculum, there is intrigue in the inclusion of the Urban Dictionary – a resource generally not sanctioned for academic use. From an instructor’s perspective, however, the beauty of this assignment lies in the fact that learners leave the class no longer dependent on their professor standing in front of them and making conjectures about the origins of new-to-me slang words. Instead, these budding lexicographers are now in possession of their own etymology toolkits and can confidently research any word they please.

Thanks to Connie Eble for taking charge of the Education Column.

Madeline Kripke 1943-2020


From Collection of Madeline Kripke. Reuse prohibited.

Madeline Kripke, who died aged 76 on April 25, 2020, yet another of New York’s many victims of Covid-19, was for the bulk of her life the world’s leading, if not unique collector of lexicographical material, both historical and contemporary. This was especially the case as regarded her unrivalled library of slang dictionaries and allied ‘counter-linguistic’ material, which had set her career in motion more than forty years ago. The classic poacher-turned-gamekeeper, she moved from a fascination with dictionaries, first encountered as source of delight when very young, to establishing herself as a dealer in their finest or most recondite examples, with a focus on the less respected, but by extension less easily available slang lexis, and finally, falling in love with her stock as must be a temptation for every variety of dealer, to become a  collector pure and simple. If one might rewrite the alleged ‘whore’s excuse’, in collecting terms, ‘first she did it for herself, and then she did it for money and finally then she did it for her friends.’ ‘Friends’ being a wide category: her generosity to slang lexicographers was legendary, as it was to all scholarly enquirers. Those who could make the trip were invited to her apartment, others might be given scans of precious material.

Her death brought many personal tributes, plus a lengthy obituary in the New York Times, with variations in the serious press of France, Italy, India and elsewhere.  All praised her devotion and the success it brought. It quoted some of her interviews, which talked of ‘the gifted in pursuit of the valued’ and named her ‘The Dame of Dictionaries’.


I would like, if I may, to intersperse a few personal memories. I am sure that others will have their own, very likely better informed, but these are mine. Living in London I could never be a regular or intimate visitor, but when through some kindly recommendation, perhaps in the Nineties, I was given her address in Perry Street, Greenwich Village, New York city, I was keen to use it. Thus I did, presenting a slang lexicographer who had just disposed of a collection of P.G. Wodehouse with the aim of obtaining some of the stand-out examples of my craft. I had found a dealer in such dictionaries nearer home, and was starting to pick up her less expensive offerings, when I was told – why do I sense that there was a degree of bated breath and awe involved? – of this woman in New York. If I wanted to play the game, then hers was the team one had to join. So I wrote, and asked for a catalogue. No reply ever came back. Her dealing days, I would find out, had passed. She had succumbed, it would appear, to the bugbear that must bedevil every dealer – whether in books, carpets, furniture, whatever antiquarian speciality one chose – the reluctance to let go one’s stock. Now she had the one job: collecting. She would do it as well as any, and for our discipline of lexicography in general and slang in particular, far, far away better than that.

Madeline Kripke, known as Linnie to her immediate family, notably her brother the world-renowned philosopher Saul, but simply Madeline to the many who revered her, was the greatest collector of dictionaries, primarily those of slang, that the world has known, and very likely will ever know. There was also a sidebar in erotica, notably a collection, again unrivalled, of what were known as eight-pagers, Tillie and Mac or jo-jo books, bluesies and gray-backs, but mainly as Tijuana Bibles. Small, ill-drawn, crude in every sense, vastly obscene renditions of celebrities, mainly Hollywood (both human and animated), in the copulations of someone’s one-handed dreams. Lavatory walls, effectively, brought to print. If such a thing might be envisaged, one of slang’s even naughtier little offspring. She also gathered in material that stemmed from mainstream dictionary-making, notably some unique papers regarding G.C. Merriam at a time when the company had recently acquired the work of Noah Webster.

At her death there were at the very least 20,000 volumes: that was the official figure for interviews and now obits, but the truth was that who – Madeline included – had ever fully counted and it may be that the true figure was double that one; cataloguing, a task that demanded decades, was still in progress. (She was certainly at it in the early 2000s when I visited Perry Street and there was no sense that the job was anywhere near approaching completion). They were shelved, often two-deep, on every wall of her apartment and piled on every once-vacant square foot of floor. Plus tables, chairs, surfaces that might once have been work-tops, the steps of library ladders and even on her bed. It became ever harder to navigate the labyrinthine spaces between them. Madeline would use a torch to investigate the further, darker corners and higher shelves. To make an accurate list would take almost as long as the collecting itself. In addition there were several out-stores. Three was the stated figure, but it seems that there were an extra couple. These last were as yet empty: a state that would not, surely, have lasted.

In 2008 the language expert Ammon Shea, writing in Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, stated that ‘As far as I am aware, my friend Madeline is the only person in the world who ever made her living solely from buying and selling dictionaries.’ Not, as I have found, wholly true, but certainly no-one had ever collected such works on the Kripke scale. One had to start looking at the great bibliophiles of history, and even those for whom –philia – love – had turned to –mania – obsession – to see those who gathered their beloved volumes to the same extent. This is not to impugn her with the slightest instability: as lexicographers will appreciate from their own world, to be done properly certain jobs demand a degree of obsession, but always, as the popular modifier might add, in a good way. This level of collection was surely one of them. And Madeline was still unique: there may have been other dictionary dealers, but there were no other dictionary collectors remotely on her level, and definitely, unarguably none who specialized in slang.

In the end, I did meet Madeline. In Durham, North Carolina in 2003 where that year’s bi-annual conference of the Dictionary Society of North America was being held. As I was to discover she was a regular attendee at this and other ‘words’ conferences. Indeed, our last meeting came at Julie Coleman’s Conference on Global English Slang in 2013. Madeline would usually turn up with some newly purchased rarity, which would be plucked from a bag and unwrapped to an audience of fascinated lexicographers. I forget what that year’s treat might have been, only that we duly ooh-ed and aah-ed and I at least wished I had both the investigatory skills and the deep enough pockets to have had it for my own. We were introduced.  She said yes, she had such books as I had produced (still relatively neophyte productions), but no, she was no longer dealing. Nonetheless I should visit her in New York. She offered a pair of business cards: on one I read the Perry Street address I’d already obtained. Then, ‘Look at the other’, she said, obviously holding back her amusement. ‘This is what I do.’ I looked. It carried a single word, centred and boldface: ‘lexicunt’.


Slang is to standard language as…let’s think of a city’s inevitably tiny boho enclave set aside from the larger city itself, with its uptown, downtown, rich streets, poor ones, burbs and the rest. Categorise it in dictionary form and the discrepancy is much the same. Socially, linguistically, lexicographically minimus, to offer a little old-school aggrandisement, inter pares. I have written a history of the subset and I could probably list my predecessors, the primary slang lexicographers of half a millennium without vast trouble. A conference of slang dictionary people – Madeline was of course present, she loved such get-togethers – was held at Leicester University in 2013. Were there a dozen of us? Possibly. Twenty? No way, even if Aaron Peckham, creator of the Urban Dictionary, had come to see what the oldies were up to. And if she had restricted her collection to those same thick, square dictionaries, then of course it could never have attained such magnificence. But like a bibliomane who sets out to collect every item of, say, Dickensiana – not just every manuscript and every published edition, even every translation, but every letter, every scribbled note, right down to every piece of household furniture and kitchenware – this was a slang collection that infinitely transcended the peaks. It seems that nothing relevant was disqualified. A vast mountain of matters pertaining to the counter-language, spreading down to the foothills and even beneath. A glorious, one-of-a-kind gallimaufry, an olla podrida of words and phrases. And as is the case in any collection of this scale, the whole edifice vastly greater than a mere sum of the individual bricks.


In the regular interviews, triggered when some new visitor with a bit of media pull and an editor to impress would visit Perry Street and discover the treasure that it contained and thereafter write about it, there was much marvelling but – perhaps such a query might have been considered naïve, even impolite – seemingly no asking of the underlying question: why?  There was some degree of ‘how,’ and much ‘when,’ and of course ‘what’ (there was a list of favourites to be trotted out but for Madeline everything represented, as she put it, ‘a sparkling jewel’) but the question that surely occurred to many readers of the resulting pieces was more fundamental: why does one dedicate one’s life to amassing 20,000 items of which the bulk were devoted to the lexicography of that much-maligned and distinctly marginal subset of dictionary-making: slang?

Why slang? The great collectors, great as in usually (until the 20th century, invariably) male, as in focused on ‘great’ books often written by (more) ‘greats’ (again usually male). Collection is traditionally seen as a male preoccupation. Beermats, football programmes, crumbling boys’ comics, even the serial killer’s gruesome trophies…and while I sometimes blush at the admission, the components – headwords, definitions, etymologies and citations – that go to make up dictionaries of slang. Again we find Madeline to be an exception. Indeed, the mere association of women and slang, not simply as its subjects but as its users and creators, was for so long considered unacceptable, a badge of ‘fastness’, lubricity and a general and reprehensible lack of ‘womanly’ modesty. Not to mention slang’s own take on the female: a man-made language if ever there was one (though who, of course, can actually gender linguistic coinage) with its grim litany of philosophies, simultaneously mixing paedophile omnivorousness –  ‘if she’s old enough to bleed, she’s old enough to butcher’ – with probably unmerited critique ­  ‘I wouldn’t touch her with yours’. Ten thousand words for girls and women: every type available except the positive and never a word for ‘love’.

It is perhaps logical – logical in the sense that she stood so much against the collecting grain – that Madeline’s own fascination for slang was launched not merely by the words themselves, though of course she delighted in them too, but also from pictures. The volume in question was a dictionary written by the great 18th century figure, Francis Grose, a militia captain-turned-antiquary-turned-lexicographer of ‘the vulgar tongue’. Grose, an acquaintance of Samuel Johnson, and one whose own peregrinations in Scotland – so much more positive than those of the great Doctor – earned him a celebratory poem from Robert Burns (no mean slangster himself). His dictionary – the Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (a consciously upmarket name for a distinctly downmarket vocabulary) – appeared in 1785 (plus revisions in 1788 and 1796, and a reworking by the era’s star sporting journalist Pierce Egan in 1823). One may consider him slang’s Dr Johnson.

What Madeline stumbled across, browsing a New York bookshop during her lunch hour from the publishers where she worked, was an edition of Grose that had been carefully interleaved with  a variety of cut and pasted pictures, used to illustrate at least a selection of Grose’s nominatively determined lexis. It had, as she noted, ‘a wealth of visual material (including newspaper clippings!) showing the contemporary culture in full bloom.’ The embellishments arrived towards the end of the Victorian era; the author remains a mystery. She paid $100 and probably thought it plenty. It was worth every penny.

The Grose was of course something of a rarity, an amateur devotee’s labour of love. Dictionaries were sometimes illustrated, but in a wholly utilitarian manner – here’s a plough, there’s a magpie – and pictures never accompanied any of the slang variety. (Other than occasionally in the ‘beggar books’ of the 16th century when readers of such ‘shock, horror’ pamphlets were regaled, for instance, by woodcuts of some hapless whore or villain being whipped at the cart’s tail). One might suggest that slang’s particular obsessions – loosely shorthanded as ‘sex and drugs and rock and roll’, with the widest possible interpretation of the latter – should be a natural for visual add-ons. Perhaps, but slang, being more a collection of synonyms than a full-on language, is nothing if not repetitive. Fourteen hundred words for penis, the same for vagina, eighteen hundred for heterosexual intercourse: even the most dedicated fan of YouPorn and its infinity of clones might falter before that many money shots.

So, stand up book one. And 40-plus years and at least 20,000 successors later…

It is likely that the collection surpassed even those of major academic and museum libraries. It had, for instance, the author’s own copy of Lexical Evidence from Folk Epigraphy in Western North America: A Glossarial Study of the Low Element in the English Vocabulary (1935), Allen Walker Read’s deliberately heavyweight title for an alphabetical study of the ‘bad’ words found in graffiti on the walls of men’s rooms in national parks. Slang has always battled the censor, even when its compilers had impeccable credentials.

Other stand-out titles dealt with Websteriana, cowboy lingo, books that struck Kripke as ‘odd in some fashion’, the slangs of various European languages, and so much else. Like the Read volume, many were what the trade calls ‘association copies’, i.e. in some way linked to their author, with a signature, a message to the recipient, manuscript amendments and the like. Collectors are invariably drawn to such refining specifics. But the truth remains: to choose from such a multitude is almost pointless. Not until the collection is fully catalogued, until each and every piece of paper – bound or otherwise – is identified and attributed, will we know everything of what she achieved.


The traditional bibliophile, and perhaps even more so bibliomaniac, depended on one vital input: a seemingly inexhaustible fund of cash. Aside, that is, from those who simply robbed pre-existing libraries or bookshops,  and even, in what appears to be a single case, murdered half a dozen rivals so as to get their priceless incunabula, from Latin meaning ‘swaddling clothes’ or ‘cradle,’ the specialist term for works that were printed in the very first dawning of moveable type, from c.1450 to 1500. There were, it is estimated, around 50,000 such books printed; 20,000 are lost and the remainder rarely hear the auctioneer’s hammer.

For a while, the former robber barons, now remade as the fabulously rich philanthropists of America’s late 19th century ‘gilded age’, saw books as a form of competitive willy-waving. My elephant folio’s bigger than yours. Like real-life Charles Foster Kanes men – as ever it was almost always men – like J. Pierpoint Morgan plundered the world – often bear-led by dealers who benefited vastly from their judicious dangling of literary treasures before clients for whom price was truly no object – to build mouth-watering collections and either incarcerated them within purpose-built libraries or handed them over, suitably name-checked above the marble-clad entrance, to the institute of their choice.

Even such a rarified figure as H.S. Ashbee, a wealthy merchant who as the coarsely punning ‘Pisanus Fraxi’ was the 19th century’s leading British collector of what the book trade called ‘curiosae’ and the great unwashed termed ‘porn’, willed his books to his nation’s grandest repository: the British Museum, where, though timorously gelded of many titles, they became the founding members of the ‘Private Case’. (The Museum, it should be added, was forced to take the smut as a condition of laying hands on what they really wanted: Ashbee’s superb collection of Cervantes, he of Don Quixote fame; they have presumably felt it was worth the risk: the last time a first edition of that classic came up, in 1989, the hammer descended at $1.5m)

Slang, of course offers no incunabula (or none we know), though examples of the  language of criminal beggars, extracted from the records of court cases, appeared in the late 15th century. Nor was Madeline a robber baroness, nor, at least in a sense that might be understood by a Bezos or a Gates, a philanthropist. There was, however, some money around. And an influential friend who knew better than most what to do with it. Her parents, Rabbi Myer and his wife Dorothy, lived in Omaha, Nebraska. As reported in the rabbi’s N.Y. Times obituary of 2011:

‘When they were younger men, Rabbi Myer Kripke and Warren E. Buffett belonged to the same Rotary Club and lived a few blocks from each other in the Happy Hollow neighborhood of Omaha. They played bridge together with their wives. The Buffetts would invite the Kripkes over for Thanksgiving.

By the mid-1960s, Rabbi Kripke and his wife, Dorothy, an author of children’s books, had inherited some money and saved a little of their own. The total came to about $67,000. The young Mr. Buffett was building a local reputation as a shrewd money manager, and Dorothy Kripke offered her husband what now seems glaringly obvious advice: “Myer, invest the money with your friend Warren.’

The rabbi, feeling that his nest-egg would not impress the future billionaire, held back. Eventually he took the plunge. In time the $67,000 was transmuted into around $25 million.

To what extent Madeline benefited is perhaps to be investigated. She came to New York where her mother saw her college, Barnard, as sited usefully near the Jewish Theological Seminary, a possible source of a ‘suitable’ husband. The ‘nice Jewish girl’ had left the mid-West in more ways than geographical. The counter-culture was taking off, and reborn as ‘something between a beatnik and a hippie’ she leapt aboard.

She followed Barnard with Columbia (a graduate course in Anglo-Saxon) then worked as a welfare case worker, teacher and even considered the still new world of computers. None lasted and she began editing for a publisher (she worked as a freelance copyeditor long afterwards). and then, as the slang collection took its grip – ‘I realized that dictionaries were each infinitely explorable…they opened me to new possibilities in a mix of serendipity, discovery and revelation’ – as a book dealer. Presumably an income came in, presumably books were sold to purchase others. But the dealing faded away with the last century, while the collection moved ever on. Her last purchase, un-named but noted, was due to cost $60,000. Pocket change in world where Leonardo’s Codex Leicester has been auctioned – to Bill Gates – for $30.8m, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for $7.5m and a Gutenberg Bible for $4.9m, but this is slang and that kind of price remains less than quotidian. By such standards her  league may to many have been minor, but Madeline was its MVP.


Collections, their first life brought to an inevitably untimely end by their creators’ death, have an afterlife. Unless, surely against their owner’s wishes, they are broken up and sold off piecemeal, the big question is always: what happens now? where do they go? This too is a story that, at least at time of writing, has yet to unravel.

‘If I magically had my druthers,’ Madeline told one interviewer, ‘I could just buy a building and declare it the Dictionary Library or the Lexicography Museum, and have an institution carry it on.’ The problem is that druthers were not on offer. Covid-19, ill-mannered, voracious, insatiable, offers its victims no time.

Madeline died intestate – there was no will nor were there instructions as to the fate of the collection. There were many plans for the disposition of the collection: my partner, sworn to absolute secrecy, which she never betrayed (and after Madeline’s death admitted that after fifteen years she had forgotten exactly which new home had been specified), was one of what turns out to be several intimates who had been vouchsafed the supposedly final destination. That this should and would be an institution, presumably a college or similar, seemed in no doubt, but which one precisely? Did Madeline intend to offer the collection as a gift? or would there be a price? No-one knew. In the aftermath of her death and as the news spread, a number of self-appointed claimants contacted the family. Mainly colleges (who made it clear that much depended on the collection being gifted), but one an anonymous individual who announced himself as acting for a seriously wealthy man who wanted to give the collection to the institution of his choice but would not reveal himself until the deal was done. Dealers, of course, were in hot pursuit, but that would almost inevitably mean that the collection would be cherrypicked for what the trade calls ‘hot spots’ – and there are many such – and the rest, the vast representation of slang material that by the very nature of its subject matter would, when assessed in single sheets or pamphlets, be declared ‘worthless’.

But as I write none of this can even be considered. Dying intestate and with the collection left in seeming limbo has kicked over the inevitable can of worms. Where there’s a will, as the cliché has it, there’s a lawsuit. And where there isn’t one…  Then, of course, there is the taxman, the IRS, who will want their lucrative pound of flesh. Without a will or statement of a gift, it seems, that mulct cannot be sidestepped. Slang, so value-free in the wild, turns very desirable in captivity. How these tens of thousands of items will be valued presents a problem all of its own both as regards the sheer volume of material to be assessed, and the fact that while the taxman dictates the valuer of choice, who but a small group of slang experts, actually know, or can at least offer an informed guess, what the prices might be. The best, perhaps the one true authority, of course, would have been Madeline herself.

What happens next is unpredictable. There are, when death joins the party, no happy endings. Slang devotees must hope that this is a rule-breaking exception.

Madeline died, wholly unexpectedly, of Covid-19. She was expected to recover. She did not. Given the restraints of social distancing, and the simple fact of her country- even worldwide circle, it was fitting that her memorial was held via Zoom. As well as her brother Saul Kripke, and his colleague Romina Padro, those on-screen were the slang lexicographers Michael Adams, Tom Dalzell, Jonathon Green, Jesse Sheidlower and Terry Victor; John Morse (former President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster); Peter Sokolowski (Senior Editor and Lexicographer at Merriam Webster; Richard Newsome (a longtime collaborator with Madeline on cataloguing her books); Bruce McKinley (of the Rare Book Hub website) and Ammon Shea (OED lexicographer and author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages).

As Tom Dalzell, offering a summary to those who attended, put it, ‘You could see the admiration and affection that we all felt for her.’ The sometimes clichéd promise that ‘she will be sorely missed’ was at least on this occasion wholly true. It is to be hoped that a longer-term memorial will be provided by the establishment of her collection in the library that she always desired.


Writing of his own work, which took hard-boiled detective fiction, usually restricted to the pulp magazines, and rendered it something of an art form and credited as such, Raymond Chandler offered this line on his own work: ‘To accept a mediocre form and make something like literature out of it is in itself rather an accomplishment.’ In the hierarchy of language, slang is that ‘mediocre form’ and in treating it like literature, Madeline Kripke took it to a higher plane.

–Jonathon Green

Madeline Kripke collected, curated, and shared. When friends visited her apartment, they realized, at some point, that she had set aside an unexpected item of personal interest to them. She could privately savor the surprise for hours, and then, the reveal! Unlike Madeline and many slang lexicographers — Dalzell, Green, Sheidlower, Thorne, for instance — I’m a country person, neither urban nor urbane. Thus, because I was rarely in New York City, we corresponded. Occasionally, she would send me photographs of other photographs or plates from books, portraits of lexicographers or illustrations of the material presence of dictionaries or nearly absurd popular representations of heroic lexicographers.

For instance, in this last category, I have in my files an image of the inside of a Noah Webster matchbook, another of a Noah Webster cigarette card. Athletes and sportsmen, actresses and war heroes, race horses and airplanes — those were the typical subjects of such cards, but in the panoply of human activity represented by them, lexicography had its place, and the trick was to find a lexicographer so famous that he fit the medium. Out of the blue one day, I received a brief e-mail with .jpeg attached. It opened to an image of the inside cover of a cigar box. I can’t read the name of the maker in the image, it’s a bit blurry on the bottom edge, but someone had actually trademarked a brand of Noah Webster cigars. The cover is garishly red and gold, with a picture of Noah Webster in the middle, framed in medallions and filigree, set against the background of a dictionary open to the definition of the verb smoke and various quotations from famous authors illustrating that word. Usually, Webster looks dour, pale, mildly disheveled. This image gives him lustrous brown hair, full cherry lips, and rosy cheeks — a romantic Webster. The accompanying e-mail said simply, “Michael: Ain’t this a honey! Madeline.”

From Collection of Madeline Kripke. Reuse prohibited.

Some pictures she sent were quite conventional, engraved plates of famous dictionary makers: Henry Alford, Jospeh Baretti, Jacob Grimm, John Jamieson, Lindley Murray, Max Müller, for instance. And some were slightly more interesting photographs, say, of Trench, Worcester, Wright, Bradley, Craigie, and Murray (no Onions). My favorites are of David Guralnik at his desk, smiling, hands behind his head, arms akimbo, shot from above. Then, there’s a suite of Emile Littré, in each with arms defiantly crossed, his scowl savage — no honey there.

Sometimes, you could tell she was showing off a bit, as when she sent an image of a charcoal drawing of H. L. Mencken by Richard Hood, signed by both. I don’t have anything like it, but if I did, I’d figure out how to show it off, too. One reason for my being, I’ve realized since she died, was to serve as an audience for Madeline’s collection, someone who appreciated the uniqueness of the items in it, but also the profound, learned, fascinated curation behind it, as well as the expressiveness of the objects themselves. I wasn’t alone in that audience, of course, and I wasn’t even in the front row, but I’m lucky to have been part of it. With my memories and the .jpegs to prompt them, I’m still part of it and, I suppose, will be until I die, too.

From our conversations at DSNA meetings, Madeline knew what to share with me, what would inform and delight me. That’s why she sent me a photograph of the entire I. K. Funk and Company on the sidewalk in front of their building. Isaac Funk didn’t make those dictionaries on his own, and Madeline shared, not only the photograph, but my sympathy with those whose names don’t appear on title pages. Similarly, a photo she titled “NID Sales Team,” with the sales force — men and women — arranged around lunch tables. I don’t know the dates of either picture, but I’d guess turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century for Funk and Company and roughly 1934 and publication of WNID2 for the Merriam-Webster folks, given their clothes. She knew, too, that I think about dictionaries, not merely as texts, but as cultural objects signifying social class, among other things, so she sent me a telling portrait of a young man studying, with law books open around him, and a very substantial Black’s Law Dictionary on the edge of the desk, closed with its spine ironically confronting the viewer. Not just good stuff, these photos, but the best.

From Collection of Madeline Kripke. Reuse prohibited.

Somehow, Madeline knew I’d study and write about Allen Walker Read before I did. She sent me many photos of him, one the ubiquitous headshot of Allen at about forty-years, another one of him sitting on a sofa, handsomely, perhaps in her apartment, pre-collection, when there’d have been a sofa to sit on. I had forgotten about a picture of Sgt. Read at a desk, probably at 165 Broadway, home of the United States Army Language Section during World War II, until I looked through what Madeline had sent me over the years this spring. My favorite, of which she sent several edited versions, so she knew it would be my favorite, shows Allen thirty feet in the air, hanging by one hand from a windmill in a cornfield, with a smile as big as the sky. Madeline had a wicked sense of humor, but a sense of whimsy, too. When I need to remember what joy looks like, I call up that photo. Madeline gave me that joy.

From Collection of Madeline Kripke. Reuse prohibited.

Michael Adams

Memories of Madeline Kripke

I met Madeline Kripke within the first 10 years of my becoming chair of the special collections department in the library at Indiana State University in 1986—I don’t recall precisely when. She introduced herself as a dictionary collector and bookseller at a DSNA biennial meeting. I recall at the 2009 DSNA meeting in Bloomington, she and I spent time talking of her collection and her plans for it in the future. These included a catalog and a future home for her books. How far along the catalog is, I can’t say. It would be an enormous expense and a time-consuming task to create a catalog of 20,000 or more titles.

The last time I saw Madeline was in Toronto in 2011. Another collector, Jerry Farrell, was in attendance, and we three spent time hobnobbing with one another. Madeline was at ease with others who shared her interests. I wasn’t able to attend another meeting until 2019, so I don’t know if she was able to go to additional meetings. I wasn’t surprised she was absent at the meeting in Blooming in 2019. She had developed health issues that kept her close to home with her books in New York.

Although Madeline was a bookseller, I think this was something she did more from a sense of duty to scholars whom she had befriended than as a livelihood. Although I expressed an interest in getting books from her for the Cordell Collection, which I helmed for about 25 years, she never shared a list with me. In fact, I know of no bookseller catalog offerings or even lists which she issued. Somehow she got to know people, and frequently she would find what they needed in her extensive holdings. It was all done informally.

Madeline’s devotion to the history of lexicography is evidenced by her years of collecting and her support for lexicography research. Her generosity in sharing her knowledge and books with others denotes just how caring she was. Let’s hope her collection, her legacy, remains intact. I know that this is something Madeline wanted.

David Vancil

Collection David Vancil Fall 2020

Collecting Column for the Newsletter

David Vancil

Linda Mitchell was planning to write another piece in this issue on a wordbook-rich collection she has made use of, but having to prepare online classes for fall classes (she teaches at San Jose State University) is taking up her time and energy.

With the loss of Madeline Kripke, we are experiencing not only a sadness at her death but the uncertainty of knowing what will happen to the physical manifestation of legacy—her thousands of dictionaries and other works of interest to DSNA members. What will happen to her wonderful books? She had considered for many years what should be done with them. But she was brought down by COVID-19 without having made any concrete plans, as far is known. Let’s hope for the best.

I recall in conversations with Tom Rodgers, who focused on books lacking in the Cordell Collection, that he was contemplating donating his collection to a university, in particular Emory University. Tom was an entrepreneur who could have devised a plan that was advantageous to his survivors and researchers alike. But he suffered a swiftly moving health crisis that left him dead within a few months in April 2012 with no time or energy to follow through.

Nonetheless, many named collectors have managed to safeguard their legacies by placing their dictionary collections in the hands of institutions of higher learning. In many cases, these have ended up being useful to scholars, as my 2011 Dictionaries article on seven such collections in North America indicates. That article is out of date and could easily be expanded to include institutions with similarly significant holdings, such as the Library of Congress.

Speaking of the Library of Congress, I recall visiting it in the early 1990s along with other sights and again in 2018 after the March for Our Lives, in which we found ourselves participants. What a change. Washington had become not a spectacle for the few but a destination for the many. It’s possible that many of the people who attended the March stayed afterwards to contribute to the size of the crowds at monuments and museums during our stay, but having experienced burgeoning crowds in other travels, I was expecting to experience crowds in Washington as well. However, I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered at the Library of Congress. The number of people making its way into the Thomas Jefferson Building, with its ornate decorations, was almost stupefying. I am not used to a library as a significant tourist attraction. There were thousands of people milling around or taking tours, both self-guided and in groups.

My family and I entered through a tunnel stretching from our congressman’s office in the Capitol into a huge courtyard. We were issued tickets, as if to a sporting event. Of course, the Thomas Jefferson Building, one of several buildings comprising LC, is an architectural marvel. Who could really contemplate them, though? Their environs were swamped with tourists, sometimes jostling one another. The public area of the library was packed with humans. We did manage to eavesdrop on a few guides, as we snaked our way through the crowd, so I was able to glance through a small window into the rotunda below, where I gazed on the dictionary and encyclopedia alcove. It housed real books, not databases. Alas, I think there was only one researcher in the whole place.

Grand Chamber by David Vancil
Great Hall
Jefferson Building
Rotunda by Adam Sorenson

One wonders what kind of impact this kind of tourism will exert on publicly accessible seats of higher learning. Will private institutions be compelled as well to open their doors to the curious? What safe haven will there be for scholars and collections?

Stay safe.

Dictionary News Fall 2020

Three items concerning major North American Dictionary Projects:

The online Middle English Dictionary remains an active project under the custodianship of the University of Michigan Library, where, however, it has to compete for time and attention with other text and software-development projects, including the enlargement of EEBO-TCP (Early English Books Online). Its helpline ( is monitored, its platform remains in development (with date-sorting next on the to-do list), a small team of editors continues to add and correct the text almost daily, and re-loads of the online data should be expected on a roughly annual basis.  Compared with the original e-MED, the present revival effort, now entering its fourth year, has added about 1,600 bibliographic ‘stencils,’ 2,500 dictionary entries, and 16,000 quotations.

Though the project has a dauntingly long list of improvements to work on, it is concentrating this year (2020) on six areas: (1) examining and entering information from the last 1,000 or so ‘Supplement slips’ (produced by editors of the print MED over decades); (2) correcting all mistakes reported by users; (3) adding newly appearing and some previously overlooked texts to the Bibliography (reading them at least minimally for new dates, senses, and words); (4) maintaining and improving a map of MED headwords to OED headwords; (5) making MED data available for projects that could benefit from it; and (6) collaborating with active editorial and scholarly efforts: soliciting pre-publication editions and transcripts, and if possible adding entries and quotations to the MED even before the edition itself appears. Under this last cooperative category thanks are due to Anthony Esposito and the rest of the OED staff, who have acted towards MED in a truly collegial spirit; and particularly to Tess Tavormina and Ruth Harvey of the Henry Daniel Project, who not only supplied a pre-publication copy of Daniel’s seminal treatise on uroscopy, but have been willing to share lexical cruces with MED for joint consideration, even as they are encountered in the course of editing Daniel’s equally massive Herbal.

It is clear to all concerned that in order for MED to thrive, it needs to become a community endeavor, with distributed contributions and contributors properly credited. Volunteer contributions and ideas for collaboration will therefore be welcomed.

Paul Schaffner

For information on the Dictionary of Old English, use this link.

Jost, David. 2020. “Interview with Joan Houston Hall.” Journal of English Linguistics 48(4) with permission from Sage Publishing

DJ: Now, we talked a lot about the procedures of DARE and how it had to struggle through constant changes in technology and also feelings about technology. If DARE was starting today, how would its methods be different?

JHH: I think unless we had a hugely generous sponsor, it would probably not be done with in-person interviews, and I think that’s too bad, because the bonds that developed between field workers and informants were really important to the success of the interviews and the amount of data collected. It’s incredibly time-consuming and therefore incredibly expensive. A new survey would doubtless have to be done digitally. A few years ago, we experimented with some digital fieldwork in the Online Survey of Wisconsin English, and we found some important problems.

We had some funding from NEH to conduct this new fieldwork in Wisconsin, going back to our original communities and also adding some new communities. The idea was to see how the language had changed in one state over the previous fifty years. We tweaked the questionnaire, we deleted all the questions about old-fashioned farming techniques, and we added new questions for things that didn’t even exist fifty years ago. We added questions such as, “What do you call the cardboard device you put around a hot cup of coffee so you don’t burn your hand?” Well, it can be a sleeve, a jacket, a wrap, a collar, and in New York City it can be a zarf (from the Arabic word for the metal framework for a glass cup). And we also asked, “What do you call the raised horizontal barrier on the pavement of a street that’s intended to slow cars down?” It can be a speed bump, speed hump, speed table (some of these vary by how wide they are); it can be a sleeping policeman, a silent policeman; or, one that I found in a Sacramento suburban parking lot: the sign said undulation. I thought that was very funny.

We worked with the UW Survey Center to set up the questionnaire on a website, and we gathered the same information about our respondents: age, gender, ethnicity, education, community type. And we allowed them to answer only the sections of the questionnaire that interested them.

We discovered a few things about online fieldwork that would need to be taken into account if another nationwide survey were done. One is that initial enthusiasm about taking part does not necessarily guarantee follow-through. We had a lot of publicity about the project, we gave talks about it on the radio, and we enlisted librarians in all of the communities we were targeting. We sent them posters and explanations and instructions, and asked them to recruit people in their communities to take part, because they knew who would be good informants.

Well, after a few months when there was very little follow-through, a colleague and I went on a road trip to meet with the librarians. Almost invariably, they would say, “Oh yes, I remember that. That sounded so interesting.” Then they would dig through piles on their desks and find the materials we had sent that had spent the previous months just sitting there. Personal contact is important, not just with the people who answer the questionnaire but with local facilitators as well.

We also discovered how limited the average person’s tolerance is for online questionnaires. The food section is one that people seemed to especially like, but when they got into it and they noticed in the top corner that this was only question 14 of 74, many decided they had had enough. Obviously, we should have shortened that section. Only one person did the entire questionnaire, which included 1764 questions.

The people who did answer parts of the questionnaire were given the opportunity for a phone interview as well as answering the questions, and this was a good way to get samples of conversational speech for analysis and to get recordings of “The Story of Arthur the Rat.”

I neglected to say earlier, when we were talking about fieldwork, that one of the most important things that the field workers were asked to do was to make a tape recording of the informant, including both “The Story of Arthur the Rat” (which was a silly little story that was designed to have all the important contrasts among phonemes in American English) and also about fifteen minutes or more of free conversation about any topic of their choice. And those recordings allowed us to compare the same text (“Arthur the Rat”) for speakers across the whole country and make generalizations about regional pronunciation patterns. But the free conversations provided a treasure trove of oral history for the period 1965-1970.

Well, those recordings have been used in many ways over the decades: for linguistic analysis (by, for example, David Durian, Keelan Evanini, Tim Frazer, Terry Irons, Tom Purnell, Joe Salmons, Cara Shousterman, Erik Thomas, and Walt Wolfram); for introduction of American speech varieties to people around the world (by professors in Belgium, France, Hungary, and Japan, among other places); and for dialect coaching, for actors who want to know how to reproduce the speech of a person in a particular region (see, for example,

I’m very happy to say that recently we were able to make the whole collection of original recordings (I believe there were 1843) freely available to anyone who wants to listen. That wasn’t an easy task because we had promised the informants originally that their names would not be released and so for several years, between about 2013 and 2017, we had a massive project using students and volunteers (and some staff time)—people who listened carefully to each recording and then “bleeped” out any use of the informant’s name or any other names that might betray who the speaker was or somehow be confidential. Those recordings can be found at Now with digital tools to help analyze the recordings, we can compare the speech of people in the same Wisconsin communities fifty years apart and begin to understand how language has changed.

DSNA Fall 2020

From the President

In my April message to DSNA friends and colleagues, I referred to the strange times we were in. At that point, Britain like other countries had just gone into lockdown; now as we all experiment with some form of emergence, the times hardly seem less strange. However, it does seem important to say that it has been and remains a key concern of the Board that work for DSNA continues on track. Since I last wrote, the current issue of our excellent Journal has appeared on schedule, and I am compiling this to meet the July deadline for our Newsletter.  Plans for our biennial in Colorado, June 2021, continue.

I want now to update you on one particular aspect of what we have been doing as a Board, as regards strategic planning. The Board is taking time to reflect on our core values, and consider how best the Society’s vision may be delivered in a rapidly changing world. What are the essential things we must do to achieve this; what are the additional things we might do?

We are committed to involving DSNA members in this process as much as possible. This is your Society. As a next step, our Executive Secretary will be sending out a short questionnaire to you. When you receive it (probably in early Fall) do please respond; we really want to hear your views.

Meanwhile, my renewed good wishes in what I suspect is a no less difficult time than April was. Thank you for all you do, separately and together, to ensure that our Society continues to flourish.

Elizabeth Knowles, President, DSNA


Globalex virtual meeting 13 February. No Globalex MC took place in January of 2020. In attendance were Ed Finegan, Ilan Kernerman, Simon Krek, Dion Nkomo, and Lars Trap-Jensen.

This Report summarizes the meeting highlights.


LREC. The deadline for LREC in May will be extended, with an expectation that appropriate papers submitted for the main conference will be directed to the workshop.

Afrilex. Dion has revised the call for the Globalex workshop. The unstable power situation in the area of the venue makes it infeasible to guarantee online attendance. Although Globalex in principle encourages more virtual attendance, there was agreement that it is wise to honor a host institution’s reluctance.

As for online possibilities in general, Ilan suggested that presentations could be pre-recorded to reduce technical problems. Simon suggested it would be in the spirit of Globalex for conferences to offer one entirely virtual session. Lars suggested a manual to sum up the experience and recommendations so far: available technical solutions, organisational factors to be taken into account: whether online participants should be able to attend/present/publish at a reduced rate, and so on. The manual could be available on the Globalex website for conference organisers. 

Euralex. Deadline for submissions is next week.

Ed reported that publications from the neologism workshop at the 2019 DSNA biennial meeting would be published in April.


Owing to recent deadlines for ELEXIS deliverables, there has not been progress on work with Elexifinder. The ELEXIS deliverables are visible at

Globalex virtual meeting 13 March. In attendance Ilan Kernerman, Simon Krek, and Lars Trap-Jensen.

This Report summarizes the meeting highlights.


LREC general track received 11 submissions, about half of them well within the Linked Lexicography topic. Submission to the other two tracks ends today and authors will be informed about acceptance in due course. A second round of submissions is planned. If, as expected, the LREC conference is canceled, the accepted papers will be published.

Afrilex has sent out a call for papers, including for a Globalex “session” rather than “workshop” so as to avoid confusion with Afrilex’s traditional “workshops.” (Note that this year’s Afrilex conference has been postponed a year until 2021 in light of world events—see below at NB.)

Euralex The planned workshop at the Euralex meeting has had 16 submissions, though some are not strongly related to lexicography. The workshop will take place from 9 am to 1.30 pm, preceding the official opening of the conference. Besides papers presented there will be a poster session.


No further development since February.


A new volume of Lexicon is due soon and will be added to the list of publications on the website.

Afrilex has launched its new website at

NB: Globalex is part of a swiftly developing, swiftly changing, and increasingly dangerous world that each member of the MC and the organizations we represent must deal with. Since the March Globalex meeting, health risks and imposed restrictions around the world have led to developments among our Globalex members. The Asialex conference has been postponed to Oct. 31-Nov. 2 (2020), with the deadline for abstract submission extended to July 31. Afrilex has postponed its meeting planned for this year to a time in June/July of 2021. The Digital Lexicography meeting scheduled for June 10th in Copenhagen is uncertain.

The Globalex Management Committee (MC) met virtually on the 16th of April, the 12th of May, and the 11th of June. This report summarizes the major items discussed and the actions taken, combining the contents of the three meetings by topic.

Elexifinder, a service developed within the ELEXIS project, will offer smart ways of querying and finding relevant texts on lexicographical topics over a large number of articles. Elexifinder will help meet Globalex’s ambition to offer our associations, their members and the lexicographic community at large a central portal for access to information. Among various options, the MC agreed to implement a search window on the Globalex website, while keeping the Elexifinder service itself at the ELEXIS web domain (

Globalex representatives. When Globalex was established and its initial group of representatives agreed by their associations, some terms were set at two and others at three years so as to ensure regular but not total change. The terms for representatives from Afrilex, DSNA, and Euralex expire this summer. Lars Trap-Jensen will serve a second term for Euralex; Ed Finegan will be replaced by a DSNA member whose location will allow simultaneous meetings with all members of the MC [Edward Finegan will be replaced in August 2020 by the new DSNA representative, Sarah Ogilvie.]; Afrilex representation is not yet settled. Ilan Kernerman continues for one more year as representative of Asialex, Julia Miller for Australex, and Simon Krek for ELEXIS.

Conferences and workshops. Owing to the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, all planned meetings and workshops have been postponed or gone online.

  • Afrilex postponed to June/July 2021.
  • Euralex postponed to 7-11 Sept 2021.
  • Asialex provisionally postponed to October 31-Nov 2, 2020.
  • Globalex workshop planned as part of LREC cancelled; submitted articles have been published at
  • Second Globalex workshop on lexicography and neologism in connection with Euralex postponed with the rest of the conference. Selected articles from the workshop will appear in a special issue of IJL, following IJL’s reviewing process, and other articles would be published as part of the conference proceedings.
  • The special issue of Dictionaries, Vol. 41.1, guest edited by Annette Klosa-Kückelhaus and Ilan Kernerman, contains eight of the thirteen papers presented at the lexicography and neologism workshop held at DSNA 2019. It is accessible at

Legal registration of Globalex. The members of the MC agreed to seek approval from their respective associations to establish Globalex as a legal non-profit organization, registered either in Denmark or the Netherlands. 

For an update on Globalex see

Mysterious Disappearance of Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft: Part 1

Who doesn’t love a good mystery story? Here’s one of our own. Can you help solve it?

Twenty-three years ago, an article titled “Systematic Racism in Dictionaries” appeared in the Society’s journal. Its opening paragraph makes a claim about a topic that is of even greater scholarly interest today than it was in 1997:

“As if to reiterate Johnson’s famous definition of the lexicographer as “a harmless drudge” …, makers of dictionaries like to assert that they are echoes and mirrors of society. Such irresponsible, pseudo-objective descriptivism holds that the job of a lexicographer is merely to record meanings and usages where and how they occur. In reality, lexicographers are gatekeepers and code controllers of a patriarchal, sexist, ableist, ageist, elitist, exclusivist, and racist society.”

The author, one Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft, is identified in the Notes on Contributors as holding the Mary Daly Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Northern Manitoba but preferring to hang out near the University of Toronto. The note alleges that Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft grew up in Bell’s Corners, Ontario, attended Bryn Mawr and the University of California at Irvine, and earlier published a work called “How Now Brown Cow: Reclaiming the Matriarchal” in Brown University’s “Bovine Text series.” (Really, that’s what the bio says!)

Some Canadian readers of the newsletter will know that a Bell’s (or Bells) Corners exists in Ontario, and many readers will know that Bryn Mawr College, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Toronto, and Brown University continue to thrive and that, for undergraduates, Bryn Mawr has always been a women’s college.

As for a University of Northern Manitoba with an endowed chair in Women’s Studies and as for Brown University (not known for a special interest in dairy farming) publishing a Bovine Text series of monographs, anyone reading the biographical note might justifiably feel a tinge of skepticism. As a matter of interest for those who hadn’t heard of Mary Daly (my hand is raised), she was a self-described “radical lesbian feminist” and held a faculty position at the time at the Jesuit-run Boston College. (

At my request, Michael Adams searched the Society’s archives for correspondence between then journal editor William Chisholm and the article’s author; he found none. Nor have I found anything to document the existence of Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft or the University of Northern Manitoba or a Bovine Text series published by Brown University. (Okay, I didn’t think it necessary to check this last point.)

For a variety of reasons, some substantive, Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft’s article will interest (perhaps fascinate) newsletter readers. To whet your appetite for solving the mystery, I cite footnote 3 of the article. Ostensibly to clarify a reference to DARE – as though readers of Dictionaries would need clarification – Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft points out that the acronym should not be confused with an identical one representing an organization called “Dykes Against Racism Everywhere.”

I confess I hadn’t read “Systematic Racism in Dictionaries” until I received an inquiry from Gaston Dorren, author of Babel (Grove Atlantic, 2018) and Lingo (Grove Atlantic, 2014). He has recently completed a book called The Dutchionary, which treats English expressions and other terms containing the word Dutch, as does Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft’s 1997 article: hence Dorren’s interest.

Bill Chisholm was editor of the journal at the time, and it is highly unlikely that he would have been fooled by the nom de plume. More likely, it seems, he was in on the ruse.

I call this report Part 1 because a Part 2 will appear in the next DSNA Newsletter if readers with knowledge, insight, or interesting speculation about the identity of Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft share their views. I’d welcome any thoughts about the true identity of Beatrix Visser ’t Hooft.

Ed Finegan, Editor

Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America

Conferences Fall 2020

2021 Conference Postponed

With great regret, but having carefully considered the circumstances relating to the COVID pandemic, the Executive Board of DSNA has agreed to postpone the planned in-person 2021 biennial meeting. The Board has an unwavering commitment to holding an in-person meeting, with the focus already publicized, at a later date to be announced as soon as possible. We are also exploring the feasibility of holding an exciting one-day virtual meeting in June of 2021.

More details will follow, but it seemed right to convey the key information without delay.

Elizabeth Knowles
President, DSNA

DSNA XXIII in Boulder

Orin Hargraves

The 2021 DSNA conference will be held at the University of Colorado, Boulder, or CU as the locals call it. Many of you know that I have worked there for the last several years in various capacities, none of which credentials me to host a conference at the institution. Happily, a colleague has agreed to be our faculty sponsor. So firstly, hats off to Laura Michaelis-Cummings, who is currently Chair of Linguistics at CU, a former student of Charles Fillmore at Berkeley where she did her PhD, and also a founding editor of the CUP journal Language and Cognition.

While the ongoing pandemic necessarily adds some uncertainty to our plans, we presently envision being able to hold the conference in circumstances that are normal, or nearly normal. We will update members with any known changes as they occur through regular channels.

CU Boulder is the largest research university in Colorado, with a total enrollment over 30,000. Boulder is located in northern Colorado, less than an hour from the capital Denver, and well served by public transportation links. Renowned for its location at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains, Boulder is also home to the only Chautauqua still in operation west of the Mississippi. It is the closest metropolitan area to Rocky Mountain National Park, the third most visited national park. Federal agencies NCAR, NIST, and NOAA all have labs in Boulder. The city is a destination for climbers, astrophysicists, geologists, sightseers, foodies, and  now: lexicographers!

The conference will take place June 2-5, 2021. It is never too early to put forth your fantastic ideas about how to make the conference a success, nor too early to pledge dollops of sponsorship cash to make the conference more enjoyable for everyone. This will be a “standalone” DSNA conference, not coincident with SHEL, which was our partner in 2019 (Indiana) and 2015 (Vancouver).

Hotel (a Best Western) and university dormitory accommodation will be available. We encourage dormitory accommodation because there are contractual minimums that we must pay for, whether people are sleeping in the rooms or not. We have designated a likely banquet venue and have also secured space for our use at the University Memorial Center (UMC), a centrally located campus building that houses the bookstore, a food court, a ballroom, and numerous offices and meeting rooms.

The conference committee is made up of DSNA president Elizabeth Knowles, DSNA executive secretary Kory Stamper, Dictionaries editor and president-elect Ed Finegan, DSNA member Lindsay Rose Russell (she’s from Boulder!) and myself. Please feel free to contact any of us. We are especially interested in hearing from members who have ideas for symposia, workshops, and panels to be offered during or immediately before the conference.

Call for Papers

The 23rd Biennial Dictionary Society of North America Conference will be held at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in June 2021. Presentations on any aspect of lexicography and lexicology in any language are welcome. Those focused on aspects of lexicology and lexicography of the American West are particularly encouraged. The conference will feature a workshop and plenary panel on lexicography of indigenous North American languages.

All presenters must be members of the DSNA. To join or renew membership, click on the “Join Us!” link at the website The program will begin with presentations on the evening of Wednesday, June 2 and will run through Saturday afternoon, June 5.

Workshop proposals (including pedagogy sessions) should be between 800 and 1000 words, excluding references. Submit these to Orin Hargraves, the conference host, at

Abstracts for presentations of 20 minutes, 10 minutes Q&A, are invited. Submission of abstracts (300-500 words) is via EasyAbs ( Please do not put any self-identifying references in your abstract.

Workshop submission (to conference host) is open from 1 Sept 2020 to 1 Dec 2020.

Abstract submission for papers (via EasyAbs)  will take place in two rounds:

Round 1 is open from 1 Sept 2020 to 15 October 2020. Round 1 presenters will be notified by 16 Nov 2020 of their acceptance.

Round 2 is open from 1 Nov 2020 to 5 Jan 2021. Round 2 presenters will be notified by 15 Feb 2021 of their acceptance.

Conference Dates: Thursday, June 2 to Saturday, June 5, 2021

Location: the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Information about the sponsor: The Dictionary Society of North America promotes the development, practice, and study of lexicography, and the use, compilation, curation, marketing, maintenance, and scholarly examination of dictionaries and related reference works. It provides forums for discussion and dissemination of information on all of these topics, including a peer-reviewed journal, a newsletter, a blog, and biennial meetings. The DSNA was formed in 1975 to bring together people interested in dictionary making, study, collection, and use. Our members include people working on dictionaries, academics who engage in research and writing about dictionaries, dictionary collectors, librarians, booksellers, translators, linguists, publishers, writers, collectors, journalists, and people with an avocational interest in dictionaries. The only requirement for membership is an expression of interest in language, in words, dictionaries and lexicography, or any combination of these.

List of conferences by Lise Winer

Because of the uncertain circumstances engendered by the pandemic, many conference dates and plans are changing.  Please check with the conference organizers for dates, places, and (a)synchronous web accessibility. 

Society for Caribbean Linguistics, August 6-7, 2020.  All presentations will be available online with open access on YouTube.  Note the paper “Current challenges to Caribbean lexicography”, by Lise Winer.

AFRILEX.  The 25th Conference of the African Association for Lexicography, originally scheduled for Stellenbosch, South Africa, 22-25 June 2020, has been postponed to June/July 2021, in Stellenbosch.

ASIALEX, The Asian Association for Lexicography. The ASIALEX 2020 Conference is cancelled, and rescheduled for 12-14 June, 2021 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

EURALEX The European Association for Lexicography Conference originally scheduled for 2020 is moved to 7-11 September, 2021, remaining in Alexandroupolis, Greece.


ICCBCLL 2020: International Conference on Corpus Based Computational Linguistics and Lexicology, Sept. 16-17, 2020, Zurich, Switzerland.

ICLLDP 2020: 14. International Conference on Linguistics, Lexicography and Discourse Prosody. September 16-17, 2020, Lisbon, Portugal.

ICLVLL 2020: 14. International Conference on Language Variation, Lexicology and Linguistics. October 15-16, 2020, Rome, Italy.

ICEGLL 2020: 14. International Conference on English Grammar, Lexicography, and Linguistics. October 22-23, 2020, London, U.K.

ICLSCBL 2020: 14. International Conference on Language Sciences and Corpus Based Lexicology. October 22-23, 2020, London, U.K.

ICLSP 2020: 14. International Conference on Lexicography and Semantic Prosody. November 2-3, 2020, San Francisco, U.S.

ICCBL 2020: 14. International Conference on Corpus Based Lexicology. November 19-20, 2020, Paris, France

ICLS 2020: 14. International Conference on Lexicology and Sociolinguistics. November 19-20, 2020, London, U.K.

ICLCL 2020: 14. International Conference on Lexicography and Corpus Linguistics, November 19-20, 2020 in London, United Kingdom

ICLDP 2021: 15. International Conference on Lexicography and Discourse Prosody, April 12-13, 2021 in Venice, Italy.

ICLM 2021: 15. International Conference on Lexicography and Metaphor, July 05-06, 2021 in Singapore, Singapore

ICHLL11: 11th International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology, 16-18 June 2021, Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain.