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

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

This issue:  Vol. 42 No. 1 (2018)

Cumulative issue #85


Orin Hargraves kicks off a series of pieces I am commissioning about the state of lexicography at present:

The 21st Century Lexicographer

My view of the profession of lexicography is through a lens shared by many, though not all, of my colleagues: I am now and have always been an independent contractor, a freelance, and never a salaried employee of a dictionary publisher. My guess is that today, most people who define words in exchange for money work in the same capacity as I do and to that degree, my perspective may reflect the experience of others.

Perhaps a good way to focus the current state of the occupation is to look at what came before it. I see the trajectory of lexicography over the last quarter century as a series of line graphs, with time on the horizontal axis and various changing parameters on the vertical. I’m better with words than with graphs, so here are descriptions of the graphs with arrows to show their direction.

Digital technology: ↗

The ascent, and now nearly complete triumph of digital technology in lexicography is paramount in understanding where lexicography is today. Undertaking lexicographic analysis and synthesis for any language today, whether widely spoken, endangered, or dead, hardly makes sense without the aid of computers at every step. This means that reasonably high-level computer literacy is a requirement of any competitive lexicographer: at a minimum, you need to be well-versed in corpora and corpus-querying software, and be comfortable with at least one commercial dictionary-making software platform. If you have programming skills, that is even more valuable.

The Dictionary as Print Artifact: ↘

In the early 2000s I worked on as many as six projects in a year that would eventually be printed as dictionaries or language reference books. In 2017 I worked on only one: the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. Every other lexicographic project I worked on last year will become an app for phones and tablets, or a component in a natural language processing (NLP) system.

Pay: →

My first job in lexicography (1992) paid £8 (at the time, about $13) an hour. I know of lexicographers today working for rates between $25 and $45 an hour, so there has been marginal  but not substantial improvement in pay. But no one is in this game to get rich. Today I think it is more common (and probably a better deal for the lexicographer) to work on a piece rate or bid for a whole job. This is an excellent incentive to learn to work quickly and efficiently. It’s also a fact that many things you can do with good lexicographic skills pay much better than doing lexicography.

Number of people in the profession: ↘

When I look at the names of people I have worked with on dictionaries over the past 25 years—they’re easy to find because they all appear in the dictionaries themselves—I see that fewer than one in ten is still in lexicography today. This is directly related to the next heading.

Availability of work: ↘

There was a kind of golden age of English lexicography in mid to late 1990s when a small handful of dictionary publishers kept dozens of freelances in the US and the UK in full-time work. In 1996, when I was working in London, I  can remember an editor at Bloomsbury  making a day trip to Wiltshire for the express purpose of talking to an experienced lexicographer who was passing through there, in the hope of taking her on—so rare was it then to find someone with the desired skills. At the sparsely attended DSNA conference in Barbados last year, I verbally advertised a slot for a single lexicographer on a small dictionary job. Immediately I had enquiries from five qualified people.

Diversification of skills: ↗

An independent lexicographer today absolutely must have a wide, flexible, and imaginative skillset, centered in facility with digital technology. If you want to make a living from your knowledge of words and what they mean you must think of every possible way to apply it, and spend a fair amount of time making sure that people who might be able to pay you for your knowledge and skills know about you. In recent years I have done comparatively little defining—fewer than a thousand words total on two projects in 2017—but I have written and edited books and articles about language, consulted on legal cases, helped develop tools for use in natural language processing, and edited television scripts for historical accuracy. A lot of this work has come to me either from fellow DSNA members or from networking that arose originally within the DSNA.


Teaching Lexicography

Janet DeCesaris

Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

For several years, I taught a class entitled Lexicography in an M.A. program in Applied Linguistics offered by Pompeu Fabra University, a public university in Barcelona, Spain. While this degree program was offered, the class attracted students mainly from Europe and Latin America. My views on teaching lexicography are thus a consequence of this experience.

As with designing any class, an important question for me was to first identify what information and skills I wanted the students to learn in the class. This, of course, partly depended on the background of the students and the goals of the degree program as a whole, but to a large extent depended on priorities I set. I was not going to be able to teach everything there is to know about dictionaries and dictionary-making in one term, so determining what was to be included was a challenge. The following are the topics included in my syllabus, in their original order of presentation:

  1. A brief history of lexicography. Students benefit from having some idea of how dictionaries arose and how lexicography as a field has developed. A commonplace belief about dictionaries is that they have not changed much over the years, and students need to appreciate that lexicography is still changing and incorporating innovative techniques and representations of language.  Students may be unfamiliar with taking a historical perspective in a linguistics class because many language and linguistics programs today concentrate heavily on synchronic analysis and description of the current language. This was true for my students. Nevertheless, I believe the class benefitted tremendously by starting the syllabus with this topic because it allowed me to introduce several fundamental points (such as prescription vs. description, single-author dictionaries vs. large-scale team projects, and the use of corpora, to name but three) that arise over the course of the term.
  2. Dictionary entries. What criteria are used to determine inclusion as headwords? What sort of information do dictionaries provide about words? Do all dictionaries use strict alphabetical order? (No, they don’t, but few students realize this before taking this class.) This very general topic allows the teacher to debunk several widely held misconceptions about dictionaries (e.g. ‘all dictionaries are basically the same,’ or ‘words not in dictionaries are not really part of the language’ because ‘if it’s a valid word, it’s in the dictionary.’ Note the reference to ‘the dictionary’.).
  3. Definitions in monolingual dictionaries. Defining styles. Sense divisions. How much contextual information should be included in the dictionary description of word behavior and distribution?
  4. Bilingual dictionaries and equivalents. Do all words have an equivalent in another language? Is equivalence best applied to words or to senses?
  5. Learner’s dictionaries. Learner’s lexicography needs a separate section primarily because learner’s dictionaries are designed for both encoding and decoding a non-native language (unlike most monolingual dictionaries for adults, which are designed as aids for decoding one’s native language) and as a result have many different features. Many learner’s dictionaries were written by making widespread use of language corpora, which nicely leads into the next section.
  6. Dictionary-making. Sources and documentation. The role of corpora in contemporary dictionary-making. The editorial process.
  7. The relationship between word structure, meaning, and dictionary representation. This may strike some as an unlikely topic with which to conclude the class, as it may not even seem as essential to an introductory course in lexicography as other topics that have not been included. This choice both reflects my personal interest in morphology and lexicology and my belief that many of the tough choices facing lexicographers are rooted in the structure of words, which varies across languages. While it may seem obvious why not all inflected forms are listed in dictionaries, it is not so clear, especially to students whose own experience as dictionary users is primarily digitally based, why large-scale monolingual dictionaries employ strategies such as including run-on entries in definitions or excluding highly predictable forms (e.g. adverbs, words with certain affixes, or semantically transparent compounds). Lexicographers, in addition to inheriting space-saving practices that were necessary for printed books, assume that users are familiar with changes in meaning deriving from productive word-formation, but in my own classes many students were baffled by this because they themselves had little experience thinking about morphology.

Would I choose the same topics today? Yes. I did not devote time to several topics that are traditionally covered in lexicography courses, such as historical dictionaries, the representation of pronunciation, the role of examples, labels and usage, electronic dictionaries, and dictionary use, all of which are arguably just as important as the topics I chose to include. The class described took place over a single term, so it seemed wise to prioritize.

Unfortunately, I no longer teach lexicography because my university embarked upon an internal reorganization that eliminated the M.A. program in Applied Linguistics. We now offer a general M.A. program in linguistics that has a strong theoretical component and the lexicography class did not draw enough students. It has been replaced by a class (taught by someone else) on vocabulary and language teaching that includes a session about learner’s dictionaries, and I am back to teaching about inflection, word-formation, and theories of morphology.

I began this article by stating that my first task in developing a course in lexicography was to determine what I wanted students to learn. If forced to choose only one point, I would say that I wanted students to understand that lexicography is about making choices in language description which are always conditioned by external factors. Over the years, many students found this approach appealing, and I hope that that idea has remained with them.


Cynthia Barnhart enlightens us about the historic nature of Clarence Barnhart’s dictionary done for the U.S Army.

The Very First Barnhart Dictionary: The Dictionary of U.S. Army Terms (1944)

The first paragraph of the prefatory “Notes on the Use of the Dictionary” lays out its purpose: “a working dictionary for a working army. … It is designed especially for the men who are writing or revising training literature, who are using training literature in the instruction of troops, and as far as it is available to them, for the men who are being trained.”[1]

The dictionary was made in the early 1940s when the United States was already at war with the Axis powers and needed to prepare thousands of recruits drafted into its army. Those recruits were not professional soldiers; they were not familiar with either military language or the reality of being part of an army prosecuting a war nor were they selected from a particular group of citizens; they were unequally educated and unprepared by their roles in civilian life for military service. Even the officer corps was not entirely professionalized but was diverse in terms of its members’ previous work experiences or knowledge of the prosecution of war or, indeed, of the military itself, including its weapons, organization, procedures and specialized use of the English vocabulary.

The dictionary was intended to help remedy—or at the least, address—the need to provide specific information about the language of the army to the men in the ranks and the officers leading them, no doubt with the hope that there would be more common understanding. Moreover, the most recent army dictionary had been completed near the end of the First World War, and, like the military itself, its language had evolved.

Clarence L. Barnhart, the respected editor of the Thorndike-Century school dictionaries, was selected to edit the new army dictionary. His appointment was proposed by the Council of Learned Societies in response to the war department’s request for recommendations. So, leaving his family in the Chicago area, he went off to war—like many others seconded to contribute to the national effort—and set up shop in offices at 165 Broadway.[2] (An office of the Secret Service was also in the building.) With mostly a staff of civilians, many of whom he had known in Chicago, and several individuals provided by the army, the group began the work.[3]

The work was of the sort familiar to a dictionary maker: read primary sources (manuals, directives, etc.) for vocabulary and meanings; assemble a preliminary list of entries based on a term’s importance and frequency of occurrence; reduce that to the most essential terms and meanings, all of which decisions were based on the editorial design of the dictionary including how to define the entries. Barnhart says in his preface that a preliminary list of 21,000 terms, winnowed down to a mere 7,000, became a finished dictionary of 312 pages (including a seven page list of approximately 520 “unauthorized” abbreviations, i.e., not previously published in any manuals). About two years later, it was published, on January 18, 1944.

The army dictionary was a technical dictionary, its entry list confined to procedure, equipment, organization, movements, responsibilities, etc., the vocabulary of a “working army” specifically defined, such as, absent without leave, advance guard, burst, burster, bursting charge, civil affairs station, civilian internee, cut and cover shelter, D day, howler, key terrain, mileage allowance, point control, precision fire, prisoner of war, reconnaissance, s, Section II, Section VIII, withdrawal, Women’s Army Corps, zone fire. Common vocabulary, defined in general purpose dictionaries, was excluded unless a familiar term had a specific military meaning. The style of defining is fairly rigorous:

absent without leave, away from any military post or duty without permission, but without intending to desert. The absentee need not necessarily realize that his absence is unauthorized. Abbrev: AWOL

ballistic coefficient, number that represents the power of a projectile to overcome air resistance and keep up its speed during flight. The coefficient is calculated from a formula that makes allowances for all factors that affect the flight of the projectile, such as its shape, weight, diameter, density of air, direction of the wind, and temperature.

by the numbers, preparatory command given in close order drill to signify that the movement ordered is to be carried out step by step, at the command of the drill instructor.

crawl trench, shallow connecting trench.

key terrain, part of an area that gives an advantage in combat to the side holding it.

military police, soldier or soldiers who guard property, prevent crime, enforce laws and regulations, arrest offenders, and perform other duties within the Army similar to the duties of civilian police. They are organized as the Corps of Military Police. Abbrev: MP

precision fire, fire in which the center of impact is accurately placed on a limited target; fire based on precision adjustment. Usually precision fire is used to destroy enemy installations, such as gun emplacements, structures, and supply points. Precision fire differs from area fire, which is directed against a general area rather than against a given objective in the area.

Secret Service, federal detective service that operates under the Treasury Department in peacetime. It aids the War Department in wartime by obtaining information about enemy activities. It is not to be confused with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is under the Department of Justice.

 The defining style throughout the book is immediate definition of the term and then, if necessary, a following explanation of its military function or application or, in the case of weapons and techniques, how they are used or operated. If “authorized,” an abbreviation closes the entry. Synonymous entries are also included, identified by the phrase “Also called,” entered and defined at their appropriate place in the list. One could say the result is dry, but this is a manual for a “working army,” designed to convey information accurately, clearly and concisely—and within a defining vocabulary that is accessible to the user, which might explain why it so resembles the school dictionaries produced by Thorndike and Barnhart.

Other stylistic decisions differentiate the army dictionary from a general purpose book: there are few pronunciations and these are presented in a respelling key (attaché = at a SHAY; chassis = SHASS ee). No parts of speech are provided; the wording of the definitions indicates grammatical function; for example, at waterline, definition one is the line on a vessel’s hull, the second defines the verb, to “aim at a point on a waterline.” Another difference relates to the expansion of definitions to include either in what situations they apply specifically (the last part of the definition of military government enumerates the responsibilities of such a government) or what amounts to differentiation  of related terms as at medium bombardment airplane, that includes the terms heavy and light bombardment airplane, which follow the definition. Clearly the goal is to clarify and encourage informed use; main guard is explained as a subdivision of the interior guard, just as are an escort guard or prisoner guard.

Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of any army dictionary prior to this one. There are, however, several that followed, and it is interesting to see the changes made between them.

The military of 1944 judged by its language seems almost quaint, possibly amateur, or even simple; in contrast, by 2017, in the latest version of a military dictionary, the army has become highly bureaucratized, internationalized, and complicated.[4] Nonetheless, it is interesting to note the many dictionary entries, such as civil affairs section, civilian internee, D day, that have “survived” intact (or virtually so) from 1944 to the 2017 dictionary, despite the later dictionary being less stylistically confined.

One aspect that has not survived in contemporary military dictionaries is the male dominance in the military. By today’s standards, the military of 1944 was clearly a male institution (some might argue it still is). All definitions employ “he” or “male,” as for example at ward master, “male nurse or orderly.” It is tempting to wonder how did those highly competent and brave women who served as officers and army nurses and pilots feel about this (assuming, of course, they knew about the dictionary)? One has no way of knowing either how any of the women who worked on staff to compile the dictionary felt about this bias. Today, we can view our attention to it as an indicator of how our perceptions about roles and gender have changed.

The army dictionary laid the groundwork for subsequent Barnhart dictionaries’ attention to technical vocabulary, particularly the Thorndike-Barnhart school dictionaries, the World Book Dictionary, the dictionaries of new English, and most especially the Barnhart Dictionary of Science. Editing the army dictionary was generally recollected by Clarence Barnhart as a satisfying experience; Robert Barnhart, his son, considered it seminal, his father’s first Barnhart dictionary written after being untethered to Scott Foresman and Thorndike.

[1] War Department Technical Manual TM20-205 (1-18-44): TM20-205 Dictionary of U.S. Army Terms 1944;

[2] See Barry L.Vellman’s (Marquette University) article “The ‘Scientific Linguist’ goes to War” concerned with the eminent linguists at Yale who similarly contributed much to the army’s efforts to create a corps of men familiar with very unfamiliar languages. Published in Historiographia Linguistica (35:3), 2008.

[3] Staff members were Maj. Sidney Hotchner, Lt. Golden F. Evans, Lt. John J. Latella, Lt. Howard E. Reed, Cpl. A.W. Read and Pvt. William J. Gedney, J.A. Bowler, Jr., Elizabeth Diez, Natalie B. Frohock, Robert K. Hall, Laura H.V. Kennon, Agnes C.E. Langner, Bernard G. Mattson, Jr., Ellen L. Nelson, N. Bryce Nelson, A. Marion Osborn, Harrison G. Platt, Jr., Theresa Rapolla, Mildred L. Thorndike, Mabel Wilcox, Ella Woodyard. Lt. Evans and Pvt. Gedney were two names that Barnhart recalled in friendly terms and A.W. Read was a distinguished linguist who had a long history with Barnhart; Mattson and the Nelsons were friends and colleagues from Chicago as was Platt, who also worked on some later Barnhart dictionaries.

[4] The writer consulted the 1983 and 2017 dictionaries of military terms (available in the online archive, see note 1). While some entries from the 1944 dictionary can still be found in these newer references in their original form, others are slightly modified, either in form or definition, many with additional definitions. This is to be expected, of course—the armies of 1944 and 2017 being like the proverbial apples and oranges—but some of the difference can be attributed to the less concise and, sometimes, less exact defining style of the 2017 version in particular. The 1983 military dictionary is much closer in style to the Barnhart version.


We are graced once again with a piece by David Vancil, one of the DSNA authorities on the collection of dictionaries.

Booksellers, Collectors, and Librarians: Building a Special Collection

In my experience, most antiquarian booksellers are motivated not primarily by the desire for profit but by a genuine love for the long and complex history of books. Some booksellers, as we know, hang on to the books they love the most and become book collectors. Conversely, although possibly less frequently, some booksellers become collectors first before getting into selling. And not a few antiquarian booksellers become scholars in their own right along the way.

Antiquarian booksellers’ sale catalogs frequently contain valuable information which is the result of many hours, if not years, of research.  In fact, not a few antiquarian booksellers’ catalogs are considered indispensable to librarians and researchers. With respect to books purchased for the Cordell Collection from sellers’ catalogs, I retained the catalogs of many booksellers and even had some of them cataloged as part of the reference holdings. As reference tools, such works stand alongside catalogs of private and public book collections as well as union catalogs, such as the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke.

I think one of my first encounters with antiquarian bookselling was as a graduate student on a book-collecting trip to San Antonio with Warner Barnes, an esteemed bibliographer and book lover who taught in the English Department of the University of Texas at Austin. The bookstore we visited was not a quaint shop but one contained in two crumbling, multi-story buildings. One would have needed a guide to get into the more ramshackle building of the two, which was located on the opposite side of the street, and possibly a hard hat for protection. I was new to collecting at the time, and it was not dictionaries which interested me in those days, but the works of one of my favorite literary authors, Thornton Wilder.

As a librarian, I made my first rare book acquisition at a college in Louisiana, where I was employed as a public services librarian. The purchase from a bookseller’s catalog was a uniform edition of the collected works of Lafcadio Hearn. Hearn’s life story was fascinating, and I had discovered that a copy of his Gombo Zhebes, already found in the library’s circulating collection, was a first edition. I transferred it to the rare book room. I hadn’t been able to resist the purchase of the set, even though I got in trouble for doing it, since the library director wanted me doing other things and not spending scarce funds on rare books. Luckily, the set was a bargain, and I kept my job. Finding rare books in the library stacks at my first job made me aware that I might encounter other important editions of books almost anywhere!

My next position took me to a library where someone else was in charge of rare books, so it wasn’t until 1986 when I joined the library at Indiana State University as Special Collections Department chair that I had the chance to select works once again from the offerings of antiquarian booksellers. I was now at the Cordell Collection, about which I knew very little, although I discovered later that it had been covered in a guide to humanities materials used in my library school.

I quickly learned that the Cordell Collection was established with a gift of 453 English dictionaries in late 1969. While Warren Cordell had passed away in 1980, after having added several thousand more dictionaries and other wordbooks in a matter of 10 years, the Cordell Collection continued to thrive and to grow.

I knew nothing of the history of dictionaries, although I made some use of a small, personal collection of modern ones to help with the smattering of languages I had studied and occasionally translated. Ed Gates, who was in charge of a lexicography track in the master’s program of the English Department, suggested books to read, and I attended his introductory course on lexicography. It was a fascinating class on many levels. His students even included a Tibetan monk, and I realized quickly that men and women in the field of lexicography would prove to be diverse in their backgrounds and in their interests.

I had to begin selecting items for purchase in my new job almost immediately. Initially, I perused antiquarian booksellers’ catalogs, which Robert Carter, a librarian who had been involved in accessioning the original Cordell gift in 1969, previewed. It turned out Mr. Carter was more interested in spending most of his time in other collections, so I was soon on my own, expending a modest annual budget. I didn’t yet have a real sense of the scope of the collection; it was hard to know what I should be focusing on. Luckily, when a renovation of the department was completed which expanded its storage space threefold, I was able to handle every book in the pre-1901 portion of the Cordell Collection personally while transferring them to a new location. I learned a great deal, including not only what was in the collection but what wasn’t.

During his lifetime, Mr. Cordell was highly involved with selecting books not only from catalogs but also on buying trips, many of them to England. He sometimes bought books in lots in order to get a certain cherished item. This approach turned out to have unforeseen and critical results, when Cordell consciously widened the scope of his purchases to include works that showed not only the development of the English language but of the long tradition of lexicography, primarily in the West. I wasn’t around at the time, but Robert K. O’Neill, the compiler of English-Language Dictionaries, 1604-1900, was frequently by Warren’s side in this important and fast-paced phase of collection building.

I selected books for purchase throughout most of my 24 years with the collection. Booksellers quickly learned my name and sometimes offered me first-look opportunities to purchase the more than 80 books added to the pre-1901 portion of the Cordell Collection annually. Occasionally, we acquired a windfall of hundreds of works at the same time by using Mr. Cordell’s approach of buying an aggregate of books. For example, 300 twentieth-century Merriam-Webster dictionaries were added simultaneously to the post-1900 portion of the collection as a result of such a purchase.

I want to write a little more about the role of collectors who are also booksellers. These are a hybrid group probably more interested, in many instances, in meeting fellow collectors than in turning over dollars. For example, DSNA member Jerry Farrell, a math professor and former New York Times crossword puzzle creator, has collected thousands of wordbooks and sold some to other collectors through Bullfrog Books. I also recall that Jerry gave the Cordell Collection an uncommon Chinese-English dictionary published by Merriam-Webster. And as everyone probably knows, Madeline Kripke possesses a remarkable collection of language books and has sometimes deigned to sell them. She brought to my attention that the Cordell Collection, which possesses all the Nathan Baileys in English and not a few in German and English, lacks a variant of the first edition. Bryan Garner, whom I interviewed in a previous column, told me recently that he had divested himself of some aspects of his collection to focus on other collecting interests, although he used a bookseller’s services rather than becoming a bookseller himself.

There are collectors who never mean to assume the role of bookseller, but are cajoled into doing so. Warren Cordell convinced more than one dictionary collector to sell books to him for the greater good. I had the occasion to meet one of these reluctant-collectors-turned-antiquarian booksellers at the DSNA meeting in Missouri, Mr. Gene Freeman. He was very affable, but more than once at the conference, Gene expressed a kind of bereavement over the loss of books he prized. While sympathetic, I was happy with Mr. Cordell’s powers of persuasion. The depth and scope of the Cordell Collection were greatly enhanced as a result.

Donors fall into another category. They are reminiscent of the originators of donated collections; they give books freely and don’t charge. By the same token, in many respects, they fulfill a role similar to that of a bookseller with respect to building collections. While most donors give a book or two, I recall Barbara Kipfer donating her entire collection. That gift is still a high point for me as curator of the collection. We should all appreciate and admire donors greatly.

During my tenure, many, if not most, dictionaries and other wordbooks donated to the Special Collections Department of Indiana State University library found their way into the Cordell Collection, even titles already held. Warren Cordell stipulated that books with markings, handwritten notes, and other inscriptions were to be considered unique. It’s fairly commonplace that a great many users of reference books write in them. So, books that some institutions or collectors might exclude from their holdings have been kept and, I would say, prized. I think that Cordell’s perspective on uniqueness has proven to be prescient. More than one researcher in the Cordell Collection has explored how various individuals used these reference books, sometimes over generations.

Barbara Kipfer isn’t the only individual to donate an entire collection. One of the most interesting and substantial book donations was anonymous. A physician in St. Louis decided to donate an entire collection of valuable dictionaries to the Cordell Collection, choosing Rob Rulon-Miller to handle the transaction. I was never able to acknowledge publicly this gift of one of the most generous donations the Cordell Collection has ever received. Finally, I want to mention the gift of Ladislav Zgusta’s office library from the Center of Advanced Study at the University of Illinois. The donation reminded me of how beloved this learned scholar was. Many of his books made their way into the twentieth-century holdings of the Cordell Collection.

Books, manuscripts, and artifacts of many kinds come by many routes into the special collections found in libraries and museums both in the United States and elsewhere. Let’s remember that the success of many collections—the Cordell Collection is but one example—is due not only to the work of the many librarians who curated them but to the effort and vision of collectors, antiquarian booksellers (intentional or not), and generous donors. Hats off to them all.

David Vancil


A Way with Words: Celebrating the Cordell Collection

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

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

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

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

Michael Adams


The big news here is the farewell celebration for DARE. We also have a piece by Eugene Green about use of the Middle English Dictionary.  And we commemorate the passing of Herbert Ernest Wiegand.

DARE Farewell Celebration

October 27, 2017

As of the end of 2017, the last three of DARE’s employees are no longer working, and the Dictionary of American Regional English is officially out of business.  We decided earlier to end with a celebration, focusing on what we have accomplished: five large volumes covering the whole of the alphabet plus one supplementary volume with geographical and social maps, an index to all the regional and usage terms used (e.g. Danish, euphemism, folk-etymology, Gulf States, Vermont, middle-aged, Shawnee, taboo) followed by all the entries in which such a term occurred, and more – great fun to browse.  DARE also has an online presence.

About 150 former DARE staff members, volunteers, student workers, supporters, and friends showed up on Oct. 27 in Madison to help us celebrate.  Many still live in Madison, but many others came from afar.  Thank you all for coming!  It was so great to talk with people we hadn’t seen for years, or even decades, to reminisce and find out what they are doing now. And great to meet others we had never met, ones before our time at DARE, or even some after our time there.  But, oh, the time was too short to talk with all of them!  Still, a good time was had by all.

Joan Hall has collected the comments of all the speakers at the celebration, including those of Steve Kleinedler, President of DSNA, for your enjoyment.

Luanne von Schneidemesser


We have remarks by Joan Hall, Rebecca Blank, Susan Zaeske, Steve Kleinedler, and Gabriel Sanders.

Joan Hall:

Good afternoon, and welcome. I’m delighted to see so many of you here today, and to realize that some have come from as far away as California, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York! We are honored that you cared enough to make the trip.

I’m also extremely pleased that many former DARE staff members and student assistants were able to come. And two of DARE’s original Fieldworkers are here! Barbara Myhre Vass did interviews for DARE in California and Illinois, and Peter Lee worked here in Wisconsin. (Please raise your hands.)

One thing that has been very gratifying over the years is that many people from the Madison community as well as the University have loved the project enough to volunteer their time to help us out. There are dozens of people who have done so, but one person in particular has devoted a huge amount of time to DARE, and we feel that she is a member of our staff: Judy Taylor will next week celebrate her 30th anniversary as a DARE volunteer. Judy, we thank you.

If you’ll look around you and check people’s nametags, you’ll see that there are quite a few with names printed in RED: those are people who have worked on the project as staff members, students, or volunteers. They have all been important to our success.

And if you look more closely, you’ll notice that two nametags are printed in BLUE–those represent members of our Board of Visitors, whom you will meet in a few minutes. Feel free to use these color-coded nametags as conversation starters!

We are honored this afternoon to have Chancellor Rebecca Blank here, and she will address us in just a moment. But first, I’d like to say a few words (hold up a sign for each):






Where will you find these? In DARE, of course! And if you would like to know what they mean, feel free to browse in the two sets of print volumes that we’ve brought today, one on the far wall, and one in the entryway.

People often ask me if I have a favorite word, and I do: it’s bobbasheely. And later during this party I’m going to take this sign and go over to the corner and the photo booth and have my picture taken with it. I encourage all of you to do the same–alone or with a friend or two–choosing your favorite from a great selection of wonderful DARE words. You’ll have a souvenir photo, and DARE will have a copy for our guest book.

I would now like to introduce Chancellor Rebecca Blank. Chancellor Blank is an economist who has worked in three different presidential administrations.

She holds a doctoral degree from MIT, and has served on the faculty at Princeton, Northwestern, and the University of Michigan, where she was dean of the Ford School of Public Policy.

She came to the UW–Madison in 2013.

Please join me in a warm welcome for Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Chancellor Blank:

Thank you, Joan, for that kind introduction. I am delighted to be here to share in this celebration of an extraordinary work of scholarship spanning 50 years.  The Dictionary of American Regional English has given us a whole new way to understand not only language but the rich array of cultures that define this nation.

Let me begin with heartfelt congratulations to:

Joan Houston Hall, chief editor emerita,

George Goebel,the dictionary’s current editor, and

Everyone affiliated with DARE over the years for this exceptional achievement.


I want to thank the members of the DARE Board of Visitors who are with us today for dedicating themselves to helping steer this project over many years:

  • Cynthia Moore
  • Erin McKean

It is remarkable to think that it’s been more than half a century since students armed with tape recorders fanned out across the country to start collecting words and phrases for DARE.  From those humble beginnings grew what Time called a work of “staggering scholarship.”

Today, DARE is heralded around the world as a monumental accomplishment — what Harper’s  called “one of the most poignant reference books ever compiled.”

It has, of course, become essential to linguists, librarians, and researchers.  But it has also proven invaluable to police investigators trying to trace ransom notes … intellectual property lawyers … and Broadway dialect coaches.

DARE reflects the very best of humanities scholarship and the Wisconsin Idea. Your work has helped Wisconsin and the entire nation to understand, share, and celebrate our history and culture.

Over the summer, my husband Hanns and I spent a long weekend driving along the Great River Road on Wisconsin’s western border.  In a blog post, I mentioned that we were still debating the proper pronunciation of the word used to describe marshy areas along the Mississippi.  Joan immediately responded, explaining that most people say “sloo,” although a few say “sa-loo” or “sloff.”  And if you’re from the Northeast or Central Atlantic areas, you probably avoid the whole issue and say backwater or lagoon.

It is just a lot of fun to learn that there are at least 20 different ways to refer to the strip of grass between a sidewalk and a street, and that, if you’re in need of an outhouse, it’s a “biffy” in Wisconsin, a “garden house” in Pennsylvania, and a “johnny house” in Georgia.

For those of us who love language, DARE is a joy.  But it’s also serious scholarship, and I want to make three important points about that.

First, DARE is an exceptional example of a public-private partnership.  It has been supported with millions of dollars in state, federal, and private grants.  That’s not uncommon in the sciences, but it’s quite unusual in the humanities.

Second, over its long history, DARE has employed and trained hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of majors, enriching their education and, for many, shaping their future careers.

Third, the national and international acclaim DARE has received over the decades has reflected on this entire university, burnishing our reputation for excellence in the humanities.  We thank you for that as well.

While tonight marks a milestone and a change for DARE, we all know that this is far from the final chapter. DARE’s impact and influence will continue unabated for generations and centuries to come.

Congratulations, and thank you for inviting me to mark this very special occasion with you!

Joan Hall:

Thank you, Chancellor Blank. We certainly appreciate your warm words for us personally and for this long-term project.

As part of the Department of English for our whole history, we have been graciously housed and warmly welcomed by our colleagues there. We have also received generous support and advice from the Graduate School and the College of Letters and Science. Here with us today is Associate Dean of the College of L&S, Susan Zaeske, who will also share a few remarks.

Dean Zaeske:

Boy oh beans!! Hoo-wee! Hot Ziggety! Holy Mackerel! And hip-hip-hooray for generating a half century of exemplary research that has contributed significantly to our understanding of American language and culture. Since the origins of this tremendous project in the 1940s when English professor Fred Cassidy conducted a pilot dialect survey in Wisconsin, the College of Letters & Science has been honored to serve as the home of what by 1962 became the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Speaking for the College of Letters & Science and Dean Karl Scholz who is unable to be here this afternoon, I want to echo Chancellor Blank’s words of gratitude for everyone who has worked on DARE and joined Letters & Science, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities among other funders in supporting DARE over the decades. Thanks to current editor Goebel and to members of the DARE Board of Visitors for their advocacy and guidance.

And I want to offer special thanks to Joan Hall. I will read from a February 2012 letter that former L&S Dean Gary Sandefur sent to Joan upon completion of the last volume of DARE. He wrote, “I also want to thank you personally for your leadership since you joined the DARE staff in 1975. You have played a significant role in carrying out the DARE mission through your dedication to Fred Cassidy’s vision, your advocacy and education on the revelations of DARE’s resources, and your guidance of the project following Fred Cassidy’s passing. In all of these activities you have come to exemplify academic staff leadership and excellence in the College of Letters & Science and at the UW-Madison.”

The chancellor mentioned how DARE has contributed to crime solving, intellectual property law, and the excellence of Broadway performances. I would like to stress how it has brought prestige to humanities research and particularly the humanities at UW-Madison. When I attend meetings of national humanities organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies or the National Humanities Alliance and introduce myself as a humanities dean at UW-Madison, often the reply is, “Oh, you work at the DARE school.” Yes, I do.

Today we celebrate the creativity, diligence, and scholarly attention that has been invested into DARE for over half a century. The breadth of the collection and attention to archival and linguistic detail embodied in DARE have provided a rich and lasting cultural resource that will serve generations to come. Congratulations on this monumental achievement.

Joan Hall:

Thank you, Susan.

In addition to being a part of the University community, DARE has also been active in two scholarly societies, the American Dialect Society (which is our titular sponsor), and the Dictionary Society of North America, where we can interact with others from around the world who share our rather unusual occupation. I’m delighted that the current president of the Dictionary Society of North America is here today, and Steve Kleinedler would like to greet you on behalf of the society.

Steve Kleinedler:

The dismantling of a dictionary is a somber event. In my 28 years as a lexicographer, I’ve seen it happen far too frequently. Whether done incrementally by periodically slashing editorial and production positions or suddenly by announcing an unexpected closure, the industry has been drastically contracting. Unlike our colleagues overseas, not even the backing of educational institutions is enough to sustain dictionary projects in the modern American business and political climate.

As the president of the Dictionary Society of North America, an organization whose history is deeply intertwined with the Dictionary of American Regional English, it is my sad duty to witness the end of another American lexicographical institution. While we celebrate the work of countless scholars, lexicographers, designers, production personnel, volunteers, not to mention the contributions of so many speakers across the country going back to the 1960s, we do so with the bittersweet realization that it is coming to a close.

If general purpose dictionaries document the way a population uses language, regional dictionaries document the different ways a population uses language.

To see one’s own lexicon, one’s own way of speaking, one’s idiolect cataloged, described, and documented is extremely powerful and vital. In the late 90’s when I was working on page proofs for the fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, I was shocked to see boughten was marked as a regional word. Boughten is a core vocabulary word for me, not just in phrases like boughten bread (which I heard frequently growing up in contrast to the default kind of bread – that which was homemade), but as the past participle: I’ve boughten some cupcakes for desert. So I turned to the Dictionary of American Regional English, and read all of the examples and looked at the distribution patterns. I felt validated — even though no one else on staff (and at that time, we still had a big staff) used it and everyone thought that it “sounded funny.” I was validated. I have learned how to use lie and lay and sit and set and whom, but I don’t budge on boughten. It’s an entrenched part of my idiolect, enshrining my upbringing in Michigan.

Lexicographers at DARE conducted research on a national level to document regional variation, validating speakers who might otherwise have thought their regional dialect was stigmatized, long before self-selected populations could take internet quizzes, selecting whether they watch fireflies or lightning bugs in the nighttime sky.

Like all the other American dictionaries that have been unceremoniously gutted in the past two decades, the mantra of “content wants to be free” continues its unblinking algorithmic march. Although everyone here has benefited from instantaneous electronic lexicographical resources, there is one thing people can do that data trawling cannot, and that is account for context. This fact will likely remain so until the Singularity. Algorithms lack context. Some may argue this is a feature, but it is a bug.

The Dictionary of American Regional English oozed humanity:  the humanness of the lexicon that it describes, and the humanness of the people who compiled it. Joan, Luanne, and many others including the late Frederic Cassidy have spent their entire adult lives on this noble endeavor. It is with great sadness we are here to witness its end, but it is important that we celebrate their immense achievement. It is through their work that the concept of regional variation is something to be upheld instead of dismissed; that diversity of language is an important component of our culture that should be documented. The six volumes and subsequent quarterly updates are a legacy to English spoken in the United States; their importance cannot be overstated. Today, we honor this legacy.

Joan Hall:

And now I’d like to introduce you to my longtime colleague, George Goebel, who has been with the DARE project since 1983, and who succeeded me as Chief Editor.

[Joan Hall summarizes his talk:

He welcomed people and drew a name out of a bag for the winner of a Wisconsin Historical Society mug with an image of a “bubbler.” He then mentioned that we had two stations where people could explore the digital version of DARE, and three stations where they could listen to any of the audio recordings we had recently made publicly available.]

Now please enjoy the refreshments, the displays, the audio recordings, the digital DARE, and the pop/soda/soda pop map over in the corner. Thank you for coming!

Link to audio recordings:

Link to press release:

1:  “The spirit of Fred Cassidy is with us”:  When we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fred’s birth in 2007, we had this photo blown up to almost life-size, and he has come to all of our parties since then.

2:  “Pre-remarks”: People enjoyed the refreshments before we had our “program.” Left front is Kevin Kurdylo, Librarian and Archivist who was instrumental in our digitizing all the DARE audio recordings; shorter woman in pink at left: Sarah Thomas, a former student worker; woman with red and black scarf, Anja Wanner, a linguist in the UW English Department; woman in pink in center: Judy Taylor, our faithful volunteer for 30 years; right front, Marty Nystrand, Professor of English Emeritus; far right, Denise Lamb, former graduate assistant.

3:  Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean for Humanities, College of Letters and Science.

4:  Denise Lamb, former graduate assistant, with the two words she chose to be photographed with in our photo booth.

5:  L to R: Denise Lamb, former graduate assistant; Mary Jo Heck, former graduate assistant; and Rosemary Dorney, friend of DARE, selecting DARE  words to be photographed with.

6:  L to R: Mike Sweet, friend of DARE; Ted Hill, former DARE Editor; Roland Berns, former DARE Editor.

7:  Joan Hall with her favorite word.

8:  L to R: Phillip Certain, former Dean of the College of Letters and Science, who ensured DARE’s future when, in 1997, he agreed to support the position of a fund raiser for three years; Joan Hall; Nancy Nystrand, friend of DARE.

9:  Joan Hall with Gabriel Sanders, former student assistant (for all but one semester of his four years at the UW-Madison).

10:  Poster to explain the art works based on DARE words, which we exhibited at the party.

11:  DSNA President Steve Kleinedler.

12:  Joan Hall; Rebecca Blank, Chancellor of the UW-Madison; George Goebel, Chief Editor, DARE.

All photos taken by George E. Hall


Eugene Green, Boston University, has been working with the Middle English Dictionary for many years and has this to say about how its resources can be tapped.

The Middle English Dictionary as a Resource for Linguistic Analyses

In its current online form the Dictionary presents beguiling resources, at least for grammarians who value its data but find access to them daunting.  If its abundant quotations outmatch any other online source of Middle English, tapping them effectively demands an innovative approach different from methods already familiar. This demand issues from the challenge of conceiving efficient, reliable ways to harness quotations arranged under headwords for studies of grammatical patterns. The possibility of supporting grammatical inferences comprehensively by means of thorough quotation makes a search for an efficient approach to the Dictionary’s lexical resources highly inviting.  Paul Schaffner’s announcement (Newsletter Fall 2017) of current plans to modify the Dictionary, to turn it from a static to a dynamic resource opens again a grammarian’s quest for workable approaches. After all, his announcement suggests that the Dictionary as a compendium aims to provide “a node in a network of historical dictionaries, electronic editions, text portals, and other linguistic resources”   Yet the possibility that under “linguistic resources” the Dictionary as a dynamic compendium would link together with Middle English parsed texts compels scrutiny. What adjustments, for example, would suitably tie the Dictionary to the Penn Parsed Corpora of Historical English and the newly Parsed Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English?  Currently the Dictionary’s terms of usage, such as agent, agency of, auxiliary, passive voice, p. ppl., provide guidance on the deployment of words – bẹ̄n, worthen, of, and thurgh among them. To suppose, however, a wide extension of these terms, in a manner compatible with the parsed texts now available, transforms the Dictionary’s ambitious undertaking into a barely conceivable enterprise.

Nonetheless, the Dictionary as a resource for grammatical analysis works under a set of assumptions on methodology.  First, a method that approaches it as a compendium to read closely offers benefits sooner than one viewing it as a resource containing more than 800, 000 quotations. If read closely, the Dictionary’s terms of usage reveal a considered practice designed to order coherently the extensive variety of Middle English forms during more than four centuries. The term auxiliary, found under such verbs as bẹ̄n, worthen, also shulen, introduces a full spate of forms from early to late Middle English.  On the other hand, close reading requires grasping a rationale for the absence of auxiliary under the headwords cǒnnen and mouen.  A like exercise applies to the occurrence of agent or agency of under only some prepositions.

A second aspect of methodology applies to the design of the analysis under consideration. Generally, the Dictionary is a valuable compendium for well circumscribed study. To suppose that it will readily and adequately supply discriminating quotations in the passive voice soon enough daunts even patient effort. But to limit initially the scope of study to the use of bẹ̄n and worthen as auxiliaries collocated with past participles by Laȝamon and Orm promises worthwhile findings. And such findings are likely to generate further questions, their scope also constrained, that make the Dictionary’s riches economically approachable.


Herbert Ernst Wiegand

08 January 1936 – 03 January 2018

During the last four decades Professor Herbert Ernst Wiegand, who passed away on 3 January 2018, has been one of the most prolific and influential scholars in the field of metalexicography and dictionary research. In the academic world he was respected and appreciated as leading researcher, scientific organiser, dedicated colleague and loyal friend. Herbert Ernst Wiegand was a versatile scholar who published in various fields of the broader domain of linguistics, especially theory of language, lexical semantics and text linguistics, as well as Germanic studies. However, his main contribution has been in the establishment of lexicography as an independent discipline.

In 1972 Wiegand was appointed as professor for theoretical linguistics at the Philipps University of Marburg. This was followed by a period at the University of Düsseldorf before taking up a position at the Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg where he was Professor Ordinarius from 1977 until his retirement in 2004.

His 487 publications, published during the period 1967-2017, include his magnum opus Wörterbuchforschung (1998), and numerous articles focusing on a wide variety of topics from the field of lexicography. The dominant focus in this extensive publication list (approximately 20 000 printed pages) is on dictionary structures. He identified, analysed and discussed a comprehensive selection of dictionary structures in minute details. With this contribution he elevated the lexicographic discussion and established it as an acknowledged scientific domain. In his four-volume Internationale Bibliographie zur germanistischen Lexikographie und Wörterbuchforschung he provided the most significant bibliography of lexicography. Although this bibliography primarily provides German references it also includes references from English and the Nordic and Romance languages.

Besides his own publications Wiegand made a huge contribution as editor and co-editor of a number of scientific journals and book series. He was co-editor of the Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik, Lexicographica: International Annual for Lexicography/Revue Internationale de Lexicographie/Internationales Jahrbuch für Lexicographie, the book series Reihe Germanistische Linguistik, the Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft and Lexicographica Series Maior. In 1982 he realised the need for a comprehensive series of textbooks covering all subfields of the broad discipline of linguistics. Consequently he co-founded the series Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, and was co-editor and editor of this series of text books that reflect the state-of-the-art of linguistics and communication science. In the 2013 volume Dictionaries, An International Encyclopedia of Lexicography, Supplementary Volume: Recent Developments with Focus on Electronic and Computational Lexicography Wiegand gave a new discussion of a number of dictionary structures introduced in earlier publications. Although he explicitly stated that his discussion focused on structures of printed dictionaries the transfer from printed to online dictionaries has already benefitted substantially from these structures because with minor adaptions many of them can be employed in the planning and compilation of online dictionaries.

Wiegand was one of the participants of the LEX’eter conference (1983) which preceded the founding of EURALEX. His paper at this conference “On the Structure and Contents of a General Theory of Lexicography” was published in the first volume of the series Lexicographica Series Maior.  His involvement in establishing this series and his participation in the founding of EURALEX signalled his future role as academic organiser. He initiated a number of scientific colloquia, workshops and conferences, e.g. the International Copenhagen Colloquium, the Heidelberg Lexicographic Colloquium as well as the Colloquium on Lexicography and Dictionary Research, bi-annually hosted in Eastern Europe.

One of Wiegand’s last major endeavours was his participation as leading editor of the Wörterbuch zur Lexikographie und Wörterbuchforschung/Dictionary of Lexicography and Dictionary Research. The first volume of this four-volume project was published in 2010 and the second volume in 2017. An important aim of this publication, in which German lexicographic terms are coordinated with equivalents in Afrikaans, Bulgarian, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian, is the standardisation of lexicographic terminology. Wiegand dedicated a lot of time, effort and intellectual innovation to this project that kept him involved up to the very last days of his life. During our last telephone conversation, four days before his death, he discussed the future of this project with me and gave some instructions regarding the continuation of the work and what has to be done.

HEW, the initials can also be read as High Energy Wanderer, received well deserved recognition for his work, including honorary doctorates from the Aarhus School of Business, the University of Sofia and Stellenbosch University. The main recognition, however, will be the continued influence of his comprehensive legacy.

With the death of Herbert Ernst Wiegand the metalexicographic discipline has lost a vital, prolific, innovative and academically balanced role player. He will be missed but his memories and his work will live on.


Rufus H Gouws
Stellenbosch University
South Africa


DSNA 22 at Indiana University

May 8–11, 2019

DSNA returns to Bloomington, Indiana, and the campus of Indiana University for its 22nd Biennial Meeting, May 8–11, 2019, and so does Studies in the History of the English Language (SHEL), with which DSNA 20 collaborated in Vancouver in 2015.

A separate Call for Papers will be sent to DSNA members late in the summer but abstracts for regular sessions (20-minute papers) should be sent to by October 31, 2018. Participants will be notified of acceptance and a preliminary program posted on the yet-to-be-constructed conference site by the December holidays. We should have the site up and running in mid-summer and will advertise its URL in the summer Call for Papers.

The conference will convene with a reception (perhaps after an opening session) on Wednesday evening, May 8. Concurrent sessions for DSNA and SHEL will be scheduled throughout Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, with SHEL and DSNA business meetings schedule on Saturday after lunch.

The conference will include several special features and events. For instance, the Lilly Library plans to mount an exhibit of dictionary and English language materials and will host a reception for us in the library to open the exhibit. I’m currently working with curators to prepare newly acquired collections of special interest to DSNA — that’s all I’ll say now, just enough to pique your interest. In Barbados, Jason Siegel introduced “The Five-Minute Lexicographer” into the program of DSNA 21, and we plan to continue what after Bloomington will be a tradition. And to help celebrate Indiana University’s Bicentennial, we’ll dwell some, in various ways, on the university’s place in the history and current practice of lexicography. It’s likely that anyone interested can make a pre-conference excursion to the Cordell Collection at nearby Indiana State University on Wednesday.

Also, I hope to arrange a few pre-conference seminars: 8–12 participants with pre-circulated papers and a plan for dissemination of the proceedings (special issue of a journal, book publication, etc.). DSNA 17 in Bloomington included just one such seminar, organized by Ilan Kernerman and Paul Bogaards, the proceedings of which were published as English Learners’ Dictionaries at the DSNA 2009, by KDictionaries, edited by the organizers. If you would like to propose a specially-themed seminar, please let me know at the e-mail address above. I hope we’ll have three or four, this time around. The seminars would require Tuesday arrival and would take place all day Wednesday. Seminarians, especially, will appreciate the opening reception.

Bloomington in May is warm and dry. The city (with a population of roughly 85,000) is easy to navigate and walkable, and for the most part wheelchair accessible. Once most students have left for the summer, it’s relatively quiet and all amenities are available to visitors — excellent restaurants and bars, other evening entertainment (a comedy club, for instance), museums, cafés, etc. Participants are welcome to make their own arrangements, but a block of rooms will be reserved in the Biddle Hotel — inside the Indiana Memorial Union, where regular sessions and nearly all conference events will be held. Rooms will also be available in a student residence hall, just ten minutes away from the Union, for those who need to minimize expense. We will provide a walk-by or stand/sit-and-mingle breakfast in some Union space before each morning’s first session.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions and rest assured that we will welcome you warmly when you arrive in Bloomington and provide the best conference possible.

  • Michael Adams


Other conferences, information assembled by Lise Winer:

Nineteenth-Century Lexicography Conference: “Between Science and Fiction.” Stanford University, California, USA, April 6-7, 2018.  For information:  Sarah Ogilvie ( or Gabriella Safran (

Asialex2018: “Lexicography in the digital world.” Krabi, Thailand, June 8-10, 2018.  Abstract submission deadline March 1, 2018.

18th EURALEX International Congress, Ljubljana, Slovenia, July 17-21, 2018.

9th International Conference on Historical Lexicology and Lexicography, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy, June 20-22, 2018.

10th Celtic Linguistics Conference, Maynooth University, Ireland. Sept. 4-5, 2018. Contact Elliott Lash,


There is much to report here. We hear from Steve Kleinedler, President of the Society, Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, Ed Finegan, editor of our journal,  Michael Hancher, who is in charge of our social media presence, Rebecca Shapiro, who reports on MetroLex, and Cinda May, who describes the application for a Warren N. Cordell Research Fellowship. We also present the DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct.

Steve Kleinedler:

In my capacity as DSNA President, and on behalf of the Executive Board, I would like to thank and acknowledge members for their work with the Society.

Our journal Dictionaries has a lot to celebrate and a lot of people to thank and acknowledge. Under the guidance and direction of Ed Finegan (editor), along with the work of Traci Nagle (reviews editor), Sarah Ogilve and Orion Montoya (associate editors), the entire Editorial Advisory Board, and the Publications Committee led by Wendi Nichols, we not only have a handsome new design, but also a semiannual publication schedule. (Thanks and acknowledgement also goes to Wendi for her service in her tenure as reviews editor.)

Additionally, the process which was undertaken to have Dictionaries indexed by SCOPUS was extremely long and arduous: the driving force of Michael Adams along with Ed Finegan, Luanne von Schneidemesser, and Rebecca Shapiro for keeping track of and executing all of the necessary requirements that made this happen. (Thanks and acknowledgment also goes to Luanne for her service in her tenure as president, and to Rebecca for her service in her tenure as executive secretary.) The semiannual publication schedule and the indexing by SCOPUS are both crucial items for increasing journal revenue.

By the time this newsletter comes out, the completely overhauled website will mostly likely have been unveiled. For that, we have David Jost and the Publications Committee to thank for shepherding that process along. In her role as executive secretary, Kory Stamper has streamlined the membership database, which, on the new website, will allow members the opportunity to track their membership and edit their membership profiles quickly and easily. Kory has also set up accounts to automatically renew, again increasing Society revenue without requiring someone’s time to track down people each year. Thank you also to David Jost and Peter Chipman for their role in producing the newsletter.

For service on the current Board, thanks go to Lise Winer, Stefan Dollinger, Sarah Ogilve, and Peter Gilliver, as well as Brianne Hughes in her role as associate executive secretary. Special thanks goes to vice president/president-elect Elizabeth Knowles for both agreeing to take on the position as well as to provide me with incredibly helpful and incisive feedback; I am very grateful for her wisdom. Kory Stamper deserves a second round of thanks for her management of a vast array of Board minutiae. (Thanks and acknowledgment also goes to Peter Sokolowski and Ammon Shea for their past service on the Board and to Rebecca Shapiro for her service in her tenure as executive secretary. Luanne von Schneidemesser remains on the Board for one more term, but I’d like to thank her for her tenure as president and her guidance in preparing me for this role.)

Thank you to Michael Hancher and Orin Hargraves for administrating the Society’s social media.

Lastly, a proactive thank-you to Michael Adams for the work he will soon be undertaking with regard to the biennial conference in Bloomington in 2019, which will be held in conjunction with SHEL.

It is my hope that you all continue to benefit from your membership in the Society, and I look forward to reading your articles in future issues and seeing you in person at future conferences.


Kory Stamper:

The work of the Executive Secretary is entirely behind the scenes, so much of what I’ve done in these first months of my term is (and should be) invisible to members of the Society—though you have no doubt already noticed a few changes to how we’ve traditionally done things.

In October, your Board voted to accept a Professional Standards and Code of Conduct for the DSNA (you can find it in this Newsletter). Such statements are increasingly commonplace among academic societies, and we’re starting to see vendors and conference sponsors require societies to have a Standards Document in place before they will do business with that society. We’re grateful for the help of our sister societies in the American Council of Learned Societies for their help in drafting this.

In July, the DSNA transitioned to an online membership management system used and recommended by many nonprofits and academic societies (WildApricot). The advantages of this new system are tremendous for both the Society and its members: it gives each member a login with which they can change their own contact information, update their academic interests, and easily renew their membership; it fully automates the renewal and membership application process, and even allows for DSNA members to set up an auto-renewal option through PayPal; and it makes communicating with our membership much, much simpler. It’s not without its quirks, but I’m grateful that the transition has been so seamless, and that each of you who have encountered the new system have taken to it with grace and good humor.

In the event that you haven’t yet logged in to the system, please do. One of the exciting things that this software offers is the ability to build a members-only section of our website, and your login to the membership system will be your login to the members-only section of the site, where we’ll no doubt have some form of the long-awaited membership directory, as well as members-only announcements and registrations (such as for DSNA21). If you don’t know what your login is, please email me at, and I will get you set up.

My other primary duty is handling the DSNA finances. Last year was a transition year for the DSNA: our Publications Committee commissioned the creation of a new DSNA website to bring us out of the Geocities era, and our journal became a semiannual publication instead of an annual publication. Both of these very necessary moves required one-time costs for the website and new regular expenses with regard to the journal—with no immediate financial return in the same calendar year. We still had a budget surplus in 2017, but it was relatively small. Fortunately, your Board has taken steps to limit costs while increasing our revenue. Thanks to the increased frequency of publication as well as new indexing for the journal, we expect to see an increase in our revenue through Project MUSE and DeepDyve in the coming years, and we have increased the cost of Institutional memberships slightly to help offset the increased costs of publication. We also eliminated the paid Secretary Assistant position in July, and have been working to reduce mailing and printing costs by tightening up our journals claims procedure.

We are on a good financial footing for such a small society. There are still a few things you can do to help:

  • Bring in new members! There’s not just a financial benefit for the Society, but the benefit of bringing in new voices, research, and growth to our field.
  • If you have access to Project MUSE through an institution that you’re affiliated with, such as a school or library, access Dictionaries through your institution and not your DSNA membership. DSNA does not receive income from member logins, but we do receive income from institutional downloads.
  • Set your contact preferences for electronic communication! Printing and postage costs can be surprisingly large for a society of our size. We’re grateful for all the members who have already opted in to the electronic newsletter and electronic communications.

Thanks for your continued support of the DSNA!


Ed Finegan, Editor of our journal:

News about Dictionaries

Dictionaries 38.2 was published in December and is available through Project MUSE. The issue contains two articles, “Dating Phonological Change on the Basis of Eighteenth-Century British English Dictionaries and Orthoepic Treatises” by Nicolas Trapateau and “Specialized Subject-Matter Labels: Exodistinctive versus Endoprofiling” by Danko Šipka, as well as two Reference Works in Progress pieces, Lynda Mugglestone’s “Words in War-Time Project” and David-Antoine Williams’s “Getting More Out of the Oxford English Dictionary (by Putting More In).” The issue also contains Antonette diPaolo Healey’s review of The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, edited by Philip Durkin; Edward Finegan’s review of Garner’s Modern English Usage by Bryan A. Garner; Enid Pearsons’s review of The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary—A Memoir by John Simpson; and Sungok Hong’s review of Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia by Walter Hakala.

Lay Lexicography in Dictionaries

Dictionaries is aiming to publish a forum on modern lay lexicography in a forthcoming issue. The scope of the topic remains flexible but could include treatments of collaboratively edited and crowd-sourced dictionaries; dictionaries of previously undocumented languages created by missionaries and others with little or no lexicographical training; popular booklets published to tout local varieties of languages and guides to local flora, fauna, and other features; and lay definitions in advertising and branding contexts. Keep an eye peeled for a proper call for papers in due course. Meanwhile, inquiries and suggestions about possible contributions from DSNA members and others interested in the topic can be sent to the journal’s editor:


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


Michael Hancher:

Until recently the MLA had an established Discussion Group for Lexicography. It was not always very active — I remember attending one MLA Lexicography session where none of the organizers or panelists showed up. Fortunately a half dozen audience members did show up (including the president of Merriam-Webster), who spent an enjoyable hour sharing their thoughts about lexicography. In later years Lisa Berglund and I managed to revive the Lex. discussion group, and we hosted some good sessions devoted to dictionaries. But then the MLA embarked on a complete redesign of its convention structure, and was about to subsume Lexicography into a new Theory and Method (TM) division called Book History and Print Culture — an objectionable move that Lisa and I objected to (traces survive at, not entirely without effect. In the end the MLA agreed to keep the banner of Lexicography flying in the revised TM title: Book History, Print Cultures, Lexicography. Rebecca Shapiro was recently elected to a five-year term on the executive committee of that forum ( I expect that she will sustain lexicography in future MLA conferences. This forum has an MLA Commons web site, with 275 subscribers, at — which is probably the URL that we should link to. The most recent posting there is the CFP for the next convention, on a broad topic at least potentially lexicographic: Cut, Copy, Paste, Track. How do we study the expansion, contraction, and development of material texts and corpora? Papers sought that explore erasure, cancellation, deletion, supplementation, and textual change.

As of 2/3/2018


Rebecca Shapiro:

The most recent installment of MetroLex, our periodic panel of talks and workshops on lexicography in NYC, was on Friday, September 29, 2017 at our now-regular location, Columbia University. We have been lucky to have found a home, with our genial host John McWhorter and his lively students, who faithfully come and share their knowledge, experiences, and interests at these events. Last fall, for example, we heard about how digitization can make an enormous difference in how information is pulled together and organized in the service of etymology and charting changes in meaning, by Angus Grieve-Smith of Columbia University and John Morse of Merriam-Webster.

Angus’s discussion was called “The Challenge of Representativeness in the 1971 Trésor de la Langue Française Dictionary” and dealt with his online project about the etymology used in nineteenth-century French theater: Digital Parisian Stage Corpus. What was fascinating was that a specific resource traced language change and could explain how small differences in one field of literature and the spoken word trace linguistic change in a broad manner. What also was interesting about the talk was that theater during that time was particularly known for its layered meanings, so it is quite a rich resource for semantic variations.

The second presentation, while different in topic, was similar in that it showed how technology in lexicographical research augments actual pairs of eyes. John’s talk was titled “The Metadata of an Offline Document: A Guided Tour through a Dictionary’s Work Galleys.” As with Angus’s talk, we were shown numerous slides—this time of galleys that had been worked on and adapted as a result of re-viewing and re-vising existing information. We saw clearly how changes were made in dictionaries based on hands-on research and work that combined old-school methods with new technologies.

After the talks concluded, the audience engaged in spirited discussion that reflected the pleasing nature of the topics as well as how well they combined audience interests in history, semantic and lexical change, and lexicography in unusual, granular ways. It is clear that there is no shortage of fascinating topics related to dictionaries and lexicographical matters that remind us that new technologies cannot replace older, more established ways of creating corpora. The robots still work for us.

This time, the presentations were made merrier by light refreshments provided by Oxford University Press. Previous talks have been refreshed by Cambridge University Press and American Heritage.

Our next presentations will be in April. Lynne Murphy will give us a clever, fun, and serious reminder that English is not just one language. Lynne Murphy was an inaugural National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar in 2016, and the resulting book, The Prodigal Tongue: the love-hate relationship between American and British English, is to be published by Penguin USA on 10 April. The book explores every facet of the British-American linguistic special relationship, including the differences in the role of dictionaries and language-reference publishing in the two countries. Here is a capsule review for Lynne’s book:

We are also in tentative talks to hear Simon Tam of the musical group The Slants on winning their Supreme Court case and how they were able to name themselves something considered offensive by the U. S. Government. See a discussion here about disparagement and the First Amendment:

If anyone in the NY Metro area would like to help with the planning of the Slants talk—as we think it might be a large draw—please contact Rebecca Shapiro at or Ben Zimmer at


Cinda May of the Special Collections Department at Indiana State has sent us this request for applications:

The Warren N. Cordell Research Fellowship is awarded each year to support scholarly research in the holdings of the Cordell Collection of Dictionaries in the fields of lexicography, lexicology, the history of English and other languages, or related areas. An award of $2,000.00 will be made to the selected fellow after completion of research in the collection. Applicants must submit a letter of inquiry, a selective vita, a written proposal describing the research project, and a detailed travel budget. Applications are accepted at any time during the calendar year. The letter of inquiry should include the desired starting and concluding dates of the residency. The proposal should indicate the materials or range of materials within the Cordell Collection that will be consulted. Send proposals to: Cinda A. May, Chairperson; Special Collections Department; Cunningham Memorial Library; 510 North 6 ½ Street; Terre Haute, IN 47809; or via email at

DSNA members have benefited from this fellowship over the years. See the article by David Vancil in the Fall 2016 Newsletter.


We include here a new document that has been promulgated by the Executive Board:

DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct

Drafted August 1, 2017

Second Draft: September 26, 2017

Adopted by DSNA Executive Board: October 18, 2017


Professional Conduct and Collegiality

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

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

Nondiscrimination and AntiHarassment Standards

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

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

Reporting Mechanism

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


In this edition of Member News we hear from Orin Hargraves, Steve Kleinedler, Tim Stewart, and Walter Hakala.

Orin Hargraves reports that the newly published Routledge Handbook of Lexicography includes three chapters by current DSNA members (Stefan Dollinger, Erin McKean, and Orin himself) and that some past members are also among the contributors (including the volume’s editor!). For more information, visit

Steve Kleinedler announces the publication of his textbook Is English Changing? in late March. Steve’s book is the newest title in the Routledge Guides to Linguistics series, which is being produced as part of the Linguistic Society of America’s publishing partnership with Routledge. The book is geared toward undergraduates who have no previous background in linguistics, providing an accessible, easy-to-understand overview of the major branches of linguistic study in the hopes of engaging the reader to take a greater interest in language and linguistics. For more information, please visit

Tim Stewart was recently interviewed for the PRI public radio program The World in Words in regard to his research about “Christianese” (the religiolect of North American protestant Christians). The episode aired a couple of months ago. He says, “I think the producers did a great job of rounding up several interesting speakers and perspectives.” A link to the audio can be found at

Walter Hakala reports, “My book on the history of Urdu dictionaries, Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia (Columbia University Press, 2016; Primus Books, 2017) has been awarded Honorable Mention in the Association for Asian Studies South Asia Council’s Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize, 2018. It received in 2015 the Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities from the American Institute of Indian Studies. It has been reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Journal of Asian Studies, The Book Review India, our own Dictionaries, and Harf: A Journal of South Asian Studies.

Request for Member News

Got news? Please send it either in the first or third person as you prefer for the next issue of the DSNA Newsletter to Peter Chipman at