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 email@example.com. Other Newsletter correspondence, such as articles for publication, should be directed to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovskii argues in his Theory of Prose (1929) that at any given time a literary system contains three competing and coexisting generations: the old-timers, the central trend, and the avant-garde. This note will briefly present two representatives of the lexicographic avant-garde — specifically, lexicographic knowledge bases — that might provide some new directions for lexicography in general.
[V. Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, Dalkey Archive Press (1991).]
It is helpful to position these knowledge bases in the spectrum of structured lexical resources. In particular, consider the various types of knowledge bases discussed by Pieterse and Kourie (2014) as “knowledge organization systems” (KOSs):
“In our classification of KOSs we consider the inherent structure of classifications. Classes of KOSs are characterized by the progressive addition of features that enhance the capabilities offered by these KOSs. The addition of these features contributes to their increased complexity. We call these classes of KOSs lists, taxonomies, lattices, thesauri and ontologies….Lists are found at the simplest end. The addition of hierarchical relationships in taxonomies enables more advanced retrieval processes which can make use of broader and narrower terms to improve recall and precision respectively. The next class of KOSs is lattices. These are hierarchical structures encoded as formal concept lattices. This formalization allows for computations that have the potential to improve the precision and recall when information is retrieved using these computations. A further enhancement offered by thesauri is the inclusion of semantic relationships beyond hierarchical relationships. These relationships are intended to contribute to the reasoning power that is to be built into applications that use thesauri. The final enhancement extends KOSs beyond controlled vocabularies to ontologies. This enhancement entails two things: firstly, the addition of inference rules in the form of meta-relations, constraints, conditional rules or production rules, and secondly, the formalization of its content.”
The five basic KOS types are, therefore:
List: “A list is a linearly organized collection that contains items and their attributes.”
Taxonomy: “A taxonomy is a hierarchically organized collection that contains items and their attributes.”
Lattice: “A lattice is a hierarchically organized collection that contains items and their attributes in which these items and their attributes are formally presented as a concept lattice.”
Thesaurus: “A thesaurus is a collection that contains items within a selected domain. A thesaurus allows for the specification of the attributes of items as well as the definition of equivalence, hierarchical, associative and/or contrast semantic relations between its items.”
Ontology: “An ontology is an electronically stored collection that comprises a thesaurus combined with a set of inference rules.”
[V. Pieterse and D.G. Kourie, “Lists, Taxonomies, Lattices, Thesauri and Ontologies: Paving a pathway through a terminological jungle”, KnowledgeOrganization 41(2014) No. 3., pp. 217-229.]
Following this scheme, the classical print dictionary would be a KOS “list” of headwords (orthographic forms) and their associated attributes, typically the following:
orthographic headwords (and variants)
pronunciations (and variants)
parts of speech
inflections (and variants)
senses (ordered in some principled way)
labels (register and domain)
morphological derivations (including part-of-speech labels and possibly other decorations)
but without any further semantic relations.
These further semantic relations are the first obvious contribution that KOSs such as the English WordNet and NIH Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) can supply.
The English WordNet (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/) is a broad-coverage English thesaurus-like KOS of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs organized into cognitive synonyms expressing a distinct concept (“synsets”). Each synset has an associated “gloss” (brief definition). Polysemous words are represented by the participation of a given lexeme in multiple synsets. Synsets are interrelated by semantic and lexical relations (decorated links). Most of these relations are within each of the WordNet part-of-speech-based “subnets”; there are relatively few relations between subnets.
The nine top-level WordNet noun synsets (“unique beginners”) are:
member holonym/member meronym: nouns; expresses part-of relation
Senator member holonym Senate / Senate member meronym Senator
troponym: verbs; expresses specificity (similar to hypernymy in nouns) Walk troponym Move
entailment: verbs; if the action described by A is true, then the action described by B must necessarily be true
Snore entailment Sleep
similar/antonym: adjectives and nouns; expresses polar opposites
Love antonym Hate
pertainym: adjectives and nouns; expresses a derivational relation
Criminal pertainym Crime
English WordNet data can be downloaded in several formats: an application-specific format (for Windows and Unix); “stand-off” files that provide additional semantic information not found in the application; and in Prolog format (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/download/current-version).
For more information on the English WordNet, see:
Fellbaum, Christiane (2005). “WordNet and wordnets.” In: Brown, Keith et al. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Second Edition, Oxford: Elsevier, 665-670.
The NIH Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), on the other hand, is a little lower on the KOS spectrum. It is a comprehensive taxonomically organized medical controlled vocabulary. MeSH terms are used principally for categorizing, searching and organizing the biomedical literature. For example, the Pubmed database and the MedlinePlus website both use MeSH codes.
MeSH differs from the English WordNet not only in being a domain-specific KOS, but also because it is organized as a “multiarchy”. All MeSH terms are placed within one or more term hierarchies. The top-level terms of these hierarchies are:
Chemicals and Drugs [D]
Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment [E]
Psychiatry and Psychology [F]
Biological Sciences [G]
Physical Sciences [H]
Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena [I]
Technology and Food and Beverages [J]
Information Science [L]
Health Care [N]
Publication Characteristics [V]
Geographic Locations [Z]
MeSH terms are densely decorated. Here are the ASCII records for “Exercise” and “Physical Fitness”:
RECTYPE = D
MH = Physical Fitness
AQ = HI PH PX
ENTRY = Fitness, Physical
MN = G11.427.685
MN = I03.450.642.845.054.800
MN = N01.400.545
FX = Exercise
FX = Exercise Test
FX = Exercise Therapy
FX = Physical Endurance
MH_TH = NLM (1966)
ST = T078
MS = The ability to carry out daily tasks and perform physical activities in a highly functional state, often as a result of physical conditioning.
MR = 20180116
DA = 19990101
DC = 1
DX = 19660101
UI = D010809
RECTYPE = D
MH = Exercise
AQ = PH PX
PRINT ENTRY = Aerobic Exercise|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Aerobic|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Isometric|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Exercise, Physical|T040|T056|NON|EQV|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Isometric Exercise|T040|T056|NON|NRW|UNK (19XX)|880608|abbcdef
PRINT ENTRY = Physical Activity|T040|T056|NON|EQV|NLM (2003)|020128|abbcdef
ENTRY = Acute Exercise|T040|NON|NRW|NLM (2017)|160325|abcdef
ENTRY = Exercise Training|T040|NON|REL|NLM (2017)|160526|abcdef
ENTRY = Activities, Physical
ENTRY = Activity, Physical
ENTRY = Acute Exercises
ENTRY = Aerobic Exercises
ENTRY = Exercise Trainings
ENTRY = Exercise, Acute
ENTRY = Exercises
ENTRY = Exercises, Acute
ENTRY = Exercises, Aerobic
ENTRY = Exercises, Isometric
ENTRY = Exercises, Physical
ENTRY = Isometric Exercises
ENTRY = Physical Activities
ENTRY = Physical Exercise
ENTRY = Physical Exercises
ENTRY = Training, Exercise
ENTRY = Trainings, Exercise
MN = G11.427.410.698.277
MN = I03.350
FX = Exercise Movement Techniques
FX = Exercise Therapy
FX = Physical Exertion
FX = Physical Fitness
FX = Sports
MH_TH = NLM (1989)
ST = T040
ST = T056
AN = restrict to humans: for animals use PHYSICAL CONDITIONING, ANIMAL; EXERCISE THERAPY & EXERCISE TEST are also available; includes body building unless article specifies WEIGHT LIFTING; do not confuse with PHYSICAL EXERTION
PI = Exertion (1966-1988)
PI = Physical Fitness (1966-1988)
MS = Physical activity which is usually regular and done with the intention of improving or maintaining PHYSICAL FITNESS or HEALTH. Contrast with PHYSICAL EXERTION which is concerned largely with the physiologic and metabolic response to energy expenditure.
OL = search EXERTION & SPORTS 1966-74; use EXERTION to search EXERCISE, PHYSICAL 1976-88; use ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION to search EXERCISE, ISOMETRIC 1984-88
PM = 89; was see under EXERTION & SPORTS 1963-74; EXERCISE, ISOMETRIC was see under EXERTION 1977-83, was see ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION 1984-88; EXERCISE, PHYSICAL was see EXERTION 1976-88
HN = 89; was see under EXERTION & SPORTS 1963-74; EXERCISE, ISOMETRIC was see under EXERTION 1977-83, was see ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION 1984-88; EXERCISE, PHYSICAL was see EXERTION 1976-88
CATSH = CAT LIST
MR = 20160630
DA = 19880608
DC = 1
DX = 19890101
UI = D015444
For reference, here are the values of MeSH field codes:
AQ: Allowable Topic Classifier
CATSH: Cataloging Sub-Heading
CX: Consider Also Cross-Reference
DA: Date of Entry
DC: Descriptor Class
DE: Descriptor Entry Version
DQ: Date Qualifier Established
DS: Descriptor Short Version
DX: Date Descriptor Established
EC: Entry Combination
ENTRY: Non-Print Entry Term
FX: Forward Cross-Reference
HM: Heading Mapped-To
HN: History Note
II: Indexing Information
MH: MeSH Heading
MH_TH: MeSH Heading Thesaurus ID
MN: MeSH Tree Number
MR: Major Revision Date
MS: MeSH Scope Note
N1: Chemical Abstracts
NM: Name of Substance
NM_TH: NM Thesaurus ID
OL: Online Note
PA: Pharmacological Action
PI: Previous Indexing
PM: Public MeSH Note
QA: Qualifier Abbreviation
QE: Qualifier Entry Version
QS: Qualifier Short Version
QT: Qualifier Type
QX: Qualifier Cross-Reference
PRINT: Print Entry Term
RECTYPE: Record Type
RH: Running Head
RN: Registry Number
RR: Related Registry Number/EC Number/UNII Code
SH: Subheading Qualifier Name
ST: Semantic Type
TN: Tree Node Allowed
UI: Unique Identifier
Physical activity which is usually regular and done with the intention of
improving or maintaining PHYSICAL FITNESS or HEALTH. Contrast with PHYSICAL
EXERTION which is concerned largely with the physiologic and metabolic response
to energy expenditure.
Year introduced: 1989
anatomy and histology
legislation and jurisprudence
organization and administration
statistics and numerical data
1: Physical Fitness The ability to carry out daily tasks and perform physical activities in a highly functional state, often as a result of physical conditioning.
legislation and jurisprudence
organization and administration
Tree Number(s): G11.427.685, I03.450.642.845.054.800, N01.400.545
All MeSH Categories
Phenomena and Processes Category
Musculoskeletal and Neural Physiological Phenomena
Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
All MeSH Categories
Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena Category
All MeSH Categories
Health Care Category
Physical Functional Performance
PMID- 19760431 OWN – NLM STAT- MEDLINE DCOM- 20100430 LR – 20181113 IS – 1439-6327 (Electronic) IS – 1439-6319 (Linking) VI – 108 IP – 1 DP – 2010 Jan TI – The effects of low-intensity resistance training with vascular restriction on leg muscle strength in older men. PG – 147-55 LID – 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5 [doi] AB – The purpose of this study was to investigate and compare the effects of two types of resistance training protocols on the adaptation of skeletal muscle strength in older men. Thirty-seven healthy male subjects (50-64 years) participated in this study. Subjects were assigned to one of three groups: high-intensity (80% 1-RM) resistance training (RT80); low-intensity (20% 1-RM) resistance training with vascular restriction (VR-RT20); and a control group (CON) that performed no exercise. Subjects in both exercise groups performed three upper body (at 80% 1-RM) and two lower body exercises either with (20% 1-RM) or without (80% 1-RM) vascular restriction three times a week for 6 weeks. As expected, the RT80 and VR-RT20 groups had significantly (p < 0.01) greater strength increases in all upper body and leg press exercises compared with CON, however, absolute strength gains for the RT80 and VR-RT20 groups were similar (p > 0.05). It should be noted that the percentage increase in leg extension strength for the RT80 group was significantly greater than that for both the VR-RT20 (p < 0.05) and CON groups (p < 0.01), while the percentage increase in leg extension strength for the VR-RT20 group was significantly (p < 0.01) greater than that for the CON. The findings suggested that leg muscle strength improves with the low-load vascular restriction training and the VR-RT20 training protocol was almost as effective as the RT80 training protocol for increasing muscular strength in older men. FAU – Karabulut, Murat AU – Karabulut M AD – Department of Health and Human Performance, University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, Brownsville, TX 78520, USA. email@example.com FAU – Abe, Takashi AU – Abe T FAU – Sato, Yoshiaki AU – Sato Y FAU – Bemben, Michael G AU – Bemben MG LA – eng PT – Journal Article DEP – 20090918 PL – Germany TA – Eur J Appl Physiol JT – European journal of applied physiology JID – 100954790 SB – IM MH – Adaptation, Physiological/physiology MH – Blood Flow Velocity MH – Blood Pressure MH – Blood Vessels/physiology MH – Body Height/physiology MH – Contraindications MH – Exercise/physiology MH – Humans MH – Leg/physiology MH – Male MH – Middle Aged MH – Muscle Contraction/physiology MH – Muscle Strength/*physiology MH – Physical Endurance/physiology MH – *Resistance Training MH – Stress, Mechanical MH – Weight Lifting/physiology EDAT- 2009/09/18 06:00 MHDA- 2010/05/01 06:00 CRDT- 2009/09/18 06:00 PHST- 2009/09/10 00:00 [accepted] PHST- 2009/09/18 06:00 [entrez] PHST- 2009/09/18 06:00 [pubmed] PHST- 2010/05/01 06:00 [medline] AID – 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5 [doi] PST – ppublish SO – Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jan;108(1):147-55. doi: 10.1007/s00421-009-1204-5. Epub 2009 Sep 18.
As can be seen from this brief overview, the English WordNet and MeSH have some interesting characteristics:
they offer types of lexical information (and ways of looking at lexical information) that deepen and complement the information found in standard dictionaries
they are formally structured
they are available in multiple standard computer-readable formats
they support and enable a range of computational functions such as text searching, semantic similarity and word-sense disambiguation
standard formats allow knowledge bases to link to and be incorporated in other structured data sources
formal structuring demands a disciplined lexicographic development and maintenance process
Given the computational and electronic future of lexicographic resources, these attributes will benefit traditional lexicography. Future lexicographic resources must serve multiple–computational and human–users. And data that cannot be linked or shared cannot and will not be used.
Thoughts about some dictionary makers and the profession
Sometimes it was difficult to
square the story-telling with the usually dignified, serious occupation of
editing dictionaries. Generally speaking, my impression from conversation with
other dictionary editors and from experience in the offices of Barnhart Books,
the process of producing a dictionary was a serious matter: expensive, risky, deadline-driven,
producing expected unexpected glitches and, once published, its reception—followed
by loud silence. Such concerns notwithstanding, however, dictionary makers whom
I have either known well (or simply met once or twice) have always impressed me
with their enjoyment of curious collections of dictionary gossip and tales.
While thinking along these lines, a
couple of chance remarks popped up in my memory inbox where they had been filed
and forgotten for quite a while. The first was a comment that roughly summed me
up when I was working in another office, that I wasn’t “at all like what we
expected.” I don’t know what it really meant but am pretty sure it had more to
do with my long association with Barnharts than with me. The second was a
response to my lament about the current status of dictionaries generally,
American ones particularly, bemoaning the effective loss of the position of editor-in-chief,
with the result, as I saw it, that commercial dictionaries had become truly
commercial, lesser and greater editors, demoted to a back-handed, inside-page staff
list, arranged in descending order of experience, responsibilities and,
presumably importance. At the top of the list is usually the corporate
executive whose department is responsible for undertaking the dictionary
project. From personal experience, I know that one seldom meets with any
executive who has any specific knowledge of dictionaries, how they are produced
or their histories. The position of editor-in-chief has been retitled chief
editor, below the corporate luminaries, an indicator that the editor-in-chief
is just another job category. To me, this is a sign that the dictionary is
relegated to the backlist, well before it has become a book. But the answer
made to my lament about the need for an editor-in-chief—or, indeed, my
assumption that such a person is either desirable or necessary or even
exists—simply exposed my quaint opinions.
Naturally my mind wandered further to
thinking about those who planned a dictionary project and then led, dragged,
cajoled a staff to complete it, a process familiar to anyone who has begun to
bog down about the letter L—halfway through, about the time when the initial
excitement of making the book has definitely dampened, when the reality of the
very long editorial slog from A to Z has become quite clear. When doing a
dictionary, who has failed to dread the arrival of the letter S?
Nonetheless, a roster of people who
have persevered and who have shaped a generous output of solid, American
dictionaries is easily put together. To remind myself that all dictionaries and
their editors are indebted to predecessors, it almost goes without saying that any
list of notable editors is only a selection. I have chosen to group (roughly) these
American dictionary makers by the specific ideas that animated them, beyond and
apart from their interest in the vocabulary their dictionaries encompassed.
Some were proselytizers, others nationalists, or recent revolutionaries,
committed Christians, who, later, influenced by developments in the scientific study
of language, brought to their editorial plans a differently informed view of
language, usage and meaning. One way or another, however, and regardless of the
time in which they worked, these American dictionary makers were somewhat
nationalistic. My own view is that the dictionary makers of earlier days appreciated
the difference between British and American English, and were of the opinion
that American English was an equal of its British progenitor (notwithstanding
Worcester’s desire to encourage conformity between the two languages), this
despite the sometimes condescending views of the British toward the American
language. No doubt my experiences go further back than many others’, but as a
student I did not question the implied superiority of British English to its
American cousin; I began to question my acceptance of that view however, having
read for a number of years, as an undergraduate and young adult, the London Times for Barnhart Books. It was,
as they say, revealing.
Noah Webster and Joseph Worcester remain
inextricably woven into the fabric of American dictionaries. Both were
Christian nationalists. Worcester’s Compendious
Dictionary of American English (1806) was described as the first “truly
American” dictionary; boldly described as a reference uniquely suited to the
American experiment, his later dictionary, A
Dictionary of the English Language, was a favorite of writers, praised by
Oliver Wendell Holmes and Edward Evertt Hale who exhaled relief with his
comment, “We have at last a good dictionary.” Worcester is generally regarded
as the best early American lexicographer, although he was not particularly
attached to American English, preferring British forms to American, appealing
to those Americans who were, shall we say, aspirational Brits. However, staking
a clear claim to the worth of the American idiom, Noah Webster edited the 1828 An American Dictionary of the English
Language. He was an unabashedly Christian dictionary maker who drew heavily
on the bible for citations. He described his dictionary as “a work of great
importance for modern readers who care about traditional values.” He also
remarked that “the Christian religion must be the basis of any government
intended to serve the rights and privileges of a free people.” (So much for scholarly dispassion.)
One needs to remember that less
than fifty years had elapsed since the end of the Revolution and the founding
of this still-shaky nation, more than a century before World Wars I and II and
the eras of turmoil that yielded decidedly different points of view, especially
of language, and the establishment of linguistics as its science. However,
shifts of language scholarship were already gathering momentum during the
nineteenth century, perhaps best typified by the preference for the (new)
science of linguistics, effectively marking the abandonment of philology.
Still, dictionaries being what they are, it was a slow process to incorporate
these shifts into the dictionary but however slow, it was happening.
The Christian faith, though,
remained a major influence during this time. Isaac F. Funk was a Lutheran, a
spiritualist, a prohibitionist, a reformer who brought his missionary zeal into
his editorial office and produced the (1893) Standard Dictionary of the English Language and established the
very successful publishing company Funk and Wagnalls with Adam Wagnalls who,
like Funk, left religion for publishing.
A “newer man” was William Dwight Whitney, who did not abandon the academy for the editorial office. He used his scholarship and reputation as an outstanding philologist to the benefit of his editorial design for the Century Dictionary. Benjamin E. Smith was the managing editor of the Century who no doubt was responsible for actually getting the job done and later became editor of volumes 9 and 10, the Century Cyclopedia of Names, and a long list of other Century Company references. The Century Dictionary remains one of the most admired of American dictionaries whose chief editor, Whitney, stood by his work and his staff despite charges of plagiarism that were issued by Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary group who were, perhaps, nervous about the appearance of the Century.
Criticism can be hard to take, especially because interest in our language is not confined to editors and scholars: One only has to remember that Merriam-Webster claims there are some 650,000 subscribers to their “Word of the Day”. Some dictionary editors are or were both professional and idiosyncratic—in addition to being confident, sturdy enough to be able to withstand sometimes nasty personal criticism, as if the editor were responsible for the language.
Among those who followed an
unconventionally varied career path to dictionary work was William Morris,
first editor of the American Heritage
Dictionary. Originally an editor and word columnist at the New York Times—and having served in the
merchant marine during World War II— his passion was the quality of written
language, and, no surprise, his American
Heritage Dictionary emphasized “good” usage but, unusually, drew on the
opinions of a panel of writers to advise him. Over the years, the American Heritage remains a strong
favorite of English usage admirers, although over time and with multiple
revisions that reflect shifting attitudes about what is acceptable and
unacceptable in language, the dictionary’s usage notes can appear unfocused or
at least equivocating, like someone who wants to be liked despite holding opinions
that might cause disagreement—or heaven forefend, be wrong. Morris was
certainly sturdy enough to survive the detour around traditional dictionary
practice with the emphatype edition of the American
Heritage. So did the American College
Dictionary and Random House whose management had a sudden onset of spasms
when the emphatype edition appeared, designed to be so useful to the dictionary
user that all traditional competition would melt away; as we know, that
innovation was forced into early retirement, but American Heritage became a
successful brand and is still on the market. Ironically, it was the American College Dictionary that was
retired early; that singular dictionary was supplanted by later Random House
dictionaries, a business decision taken by the publisher who developed a keen
dislike for Clarence Barnhart, its editor. A succession of editors have maintained
the American Heritage over its
lifetime and while the role and composition of the usage panel has changed
somewhat, the dictionary is still recognized for its emphasis on usage.
If Morris brought an unconventional resume to his position as a dictionary maker, David Guralnik definitely did not; he was a professional editor, another son of Ohio who produced very solid dictionary work, from 1948-1985 editor-in-chief of New World dictionaries, responsible for Websters New World Dictionary. He was unafraid to act on his opinions of what a dictionary should and should not be burdened with: many widely used obscenities, vulgarities and obvious racial slurs were omitted from the entry lists. These last, Guralnik thought, were fading from use; alas, they seem to have an odds-defying long life. His legacy of dictionaries produced for World Publishing was very successful, his decision to present American English as it is used found an accepting and grateful following of students and writers as well as the New World Dictionary’s adoption as the official dictionary for the AP, UPI, Wall Street Journal and other news organizations.
Katherine B. Wood, more or less de
facto editor of the Century Cyclopedia of
Names, is not perhaps the first name to come to mind as a dictionary maker.
The quality of her work and her nuanced view of how to define meaning and what
to include in a dictionary, however, is evident in her analysis and careful
reading on the tear sheets of the New
English Dictionary (the Century), on every page, notes R.K. Barnhart in
his 1996 article “Aftermath” (of the Century),
but stop “abruptly” at the letter K. They include many comments for the benefit
of Benjamin Smith when the Century
Dictionary was in preparation. Wood’s comments are in the Barnhart files,
now housed with the Barnhart archive at Indiana University, and so impressed
Barnhart that he wrote, “[She was] one of those infrequently found gems of the
editorial world around whom a managing editor of a great editorial project
builds a staff.” Unusually, her stellar
work was recognized by the Century management as she continued to play a
significant role as an editor of the Century
Dictionary and the Century Cyclopedia
Nowadays it is hard to know who
runs the show at the various dictionary houses, presumably not because solid
editors are a lost tribe, but because the business model now fashionable does
not encourage individual entrepreneurship within the editorial office. As this
rather superficial selection from the ranks of dictionary makers shows, those
who have engaged in innovative work are plentiful and interesting in their own
right. That they managed to sell their innovations to the publisher’s
management attests to their resourcefulness. Publishers naturally think in
terms of sales and costs, and the expensive dictionary, with its long history
of success, tends to encourage conservative attitudes among accountants and decision
makers. The editor who is a dictionary maker contracted as an independent
author to produce a dictionary for a publisher is less well armed, vulnerable
to the ultimate corporate weapon: the lawsuit charging plagiarism. While dictionary editors suffer from a chronic
feeling of oppression, they nonetheless manage to prevail so that they succeed in
stamping their dictionaries with their individual editorial identities and
generally have lived to tell the tale.
Personally I find dictionary people
interesting and cherish little bits about them I have learned while stumbling
around the dictionary universe. But rather than retailing tales or attempting
to explain why someone would spend an entire career making sense of everyone’s
language within a specific language community, I believe it is quite enough
that dictionary makers find the work fulfilling. I am tempted, though, to
mention that the dictionary maker can sometimes fall victim to his or her
aspirations, as when Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large describes the company’s
editors as “erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate.” A
bit over the top in my experience. Only an occupant of the office that traces
its descent back to old Noah could so confidently put the cart before the
horse, or in today’s lingo, that’s so how it doesn’t work.
Two Online Collections, Green’s Dictionary of Slang and the LEME
I learned as others who follow DSNA’s Facebook page that two important online resources, which previously required a paid subscription to use fully, are now free. Since they are dependent on the contents of lexicons and related material, I thought I would mention them again and add a few descriptive remarks members of the society may find useful.
As of October 18, 2018, Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Slang has been made available free for research into slang terminology. Not only is it a scholarly resource, but casual word mavens will enjoy simply browsing through it as recreation. I certainly found it great fun. It should be noted the web-based resource is based on and an expansion of his widely hailed massive multivolume work published in 2010. I recall it listed at around $500, which would have put it out of reach of most individuals and many institutions.
Almost as soon as the book version appeared, Green, the man behind the book and many others, set about creating a searchable database version of the book. The database currently contains more than 55,000 headwords and over 640,000 citations. Of course, there’s more to this exciting resource, but I won’t go into detail here. As of this writing, the online edition has been updated seven times in just two years.
Not that much has been said about the collection of print material that led to the book and subsequent database. I looked through the bibliography of sources, which is broken down by each letter of the alphabet. Included in the A’s are anonymous works, and it must be said, there are a few quirky entries. Nonetheless, the extent of the entries is massive, constituting hundreds of citations entered under each letter of the alphabet. This constitutes a collection of works, which whether held together or distributed, is undoubtedly the most extensive collection of slang of its kind. All one can do is say, “Wow!”
As for the search engine and the results, it’s truly impressive. But, as Green has indicated in his own remarks on the DSNA Facebook page, there’s a lot left to do. And given the nature of language, this will always be the case.
Housed at the University of Toronto under the auspices of the Press, the second resource I want to mention is Lexicons of Early Modern English, which continues since its inception under the continuing and enthusiastic leadership of Ian Lancashire. Begun some years ago, I can remember accessing it on an IBM clone and enthusiastically searching through a handful of useful titles in the database known as EMEDD that Ian initially released in 1996, followed by what is called LEME 1.0 in 2006, which focused on lexicons and related works published from 1475 through 1625 with “500,000 word entries of 150 texts.” Who could have dreamed that with its relaunch on October 1, 2018, as LEME 2.0, the database now includes more than 250 analyzed texts with a date range which has expanded to include Samuel Johnson 1755 two-volume dictionary.
By the way, these 250 works constitute under 20% of the total number of texts identified for inclusion in this massive database, which allows for contextual searching and provides the user with an opportunity to view results as they originally appeared. Indeed, the search possibilities are somewhat staggering, and as Ian has indicated, they are also undergoing improvements, which will soon allow users to download texts in plain text or TEI.
Another undertaking is a major lemmatization project which is in the works. Ian reminded me that the source texts have been made available in many instances through EEBO TCP (Early English Books Online Text Creation Project). LEME is one of many entities involved in this important scholarly enterprise.
Ian, who I hope doesn’t mind my mentioning he is 75, has been focusing primarily on the LEME since 2012, putting aside previous duties while working week in and week out over the last six years. Meanwhile, he continues to bring individuals with interest in the field onboard. Many of them, in fact, are receiving training which they’ll be able to use in similar projects. As for himself, Ian is at work, in his own words, “on a book that discusses what we can discover about lexis and language from dictionaries and glossaries 1475 to 1625.”
Both Jonathon Green and Ian Lancashire are doing the hard work of making data gleaned from relevant historical lexicographical and other germane sources available to researchers and word lovers alike. One can learn easily how they have gone about creating these indispensable resources on their websites. Rather than go into detail, which most readers will not find particularly useful about particular titles, search strategies, software or programming, and similar matters, I suggest that interested parties visit the respective websites. Green’s Dictionary of Slang dictionary is at https://greensdictofslang.com//. The LEME, under the leadership of Ian, may be found at http://leme.library.utoronto.ca. Have a look-see. You’ll find it’s worthwhile.
“Advanced Linguistics: Introduction to Lexicography” at Buffalo State College
By Lisa Berglund, Professor of English
English Department at Buffalo State College has about 30 students in our
Master’s program: half are earning degrees in secondary education, a handful
plan to apply to PhD programs in literature or culture studies, and the rest
are exploring, diverting their minds from the present, or reluctant to leave
the security of school. Most students who enroll in “Introduction to
Lexicography” do so because it fits their schedules. They have no
preconceptions about the course (although they have a lot of preconceptions
about dictionaries). There’s usually an OED fan, and someone who thinks
dictionaries are cool or who “loves words.” Their course surveys always include
variations on “I had no idea how we were going to spend 14 weeks talking about
dictionaries” and “This course should be taught more often.”
In the last DNSA Newsletter, Walt Hakala talked about his exciting freshman seminar at the University at Buffalo, noting that because the class was required, he had the chance to design a course that might not otherwise be offered. Few college English or language departments would officially add a course on lexicography to the catalog; it is up to enterprising professors to find places to introduce dictionaries to the curriculum. In the 1970s and 1980s, Buffalo State had a huge linguistics faculty; they have all retired but “Advanced Linguistics” remains in the catalog. It hasn’t been revised for a half century (seriously!), and the catalog description reads in its entirety: “special topics in linguistics.” Thus, while Walt had to ingeniously shape his course to fulfill the somewhat fantastic learning outcomes of UB’s freshman program, I only needed to ensure that “Advanced Linguistics” continues to count toward our MA distribution requirements. I have taught the course three times, most recently in spring 2018.
On my syllabus, the course description is simply: To understand the construction, history and cultural role of dictionaries, focusing on English-language lexicography. As most of my students are literature majors, I deliberately do not teach “literary works” (e.g. The Professor and the Madman) that they would find comfortable; I want the class to be bracingly defamiliarizing. The two course texts are Sidney Landau’s Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography (Cambridge UP, 2nd ed.), and Dictionaries: The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, which my students can access through Buffalo State’s subscription to Project Muse. Landau’s book was last revised in 2001, so its discussion of online lexicography is dated, but the book is witty, lucid, and rigorous. It is out of print, but used copies are generally available. My own field of research is 18th and early 19th century book history, and I therefore include a substantial unit on the history of lexicography.
start the first class by distributing and then discussing responses to the
What print dictionaries do you own (if
What dictionary do you use the most (or do
you care)? Do you use online dictionaries? Which do you prefer, online or print
What is your most common reason for
consulting a dictionary? (check spelling, check meaning, check pronunciation,
find a synonym, other).
When did you last consult a dictionary (if
you remember)? What was the word you wanted?
Have you ever read a dictionary (as if it were a “regular” book)? Under what circumstances?
Have you ever used a dictionary to win a
bet? Have you ever consulted a dictionary while playing Scrabble or another
Were you ever given a dictionary as a
present or a school prize?
List as many dictionaries as you can think
of, by name.
Write down the first five words you think
of when you think of dictionaries.
first five weeks of the course are spent on practical lexicography, reading
most of Landau’s book, and closely examining a range of 20th century
English language dictionaries, in physical and online formats (about 40
different dictionaries). We then spend five weeks studying important individual
dictionaries: Johnson’s Dictionary of the
English Language (1755); Webster’s“Blue Back” Speller (1782) and American
Dictionary of the English Language (1828); the Oxford English Dictionary (1884- ); Webster’s Third New International
Dictionary (1961); Piozzi’s British Synonymy (1794); and Roget’s
A Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (1852).
We look at physical copies of all these dictionaries; I trundle in for
inspection my MW3 dictionary stand and my two-volume edition of OED complete
with the magnifying glass. Along with
the front matter and sample entries for each dictionary, I assign supplemental
readings, such as Johnson’s Letter to Chesterfield; Trench, “Some
Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries”; Murray, “Appeal for Readers”;
Follett, “Sabotage in Springfield,” The
Atlantic Monthly (1962); and Macdonald, “The String Untuned,” The New Yorker (1962).
The last part of the course examines topics in contemporary lexicography, principally through articles from DSNA’s journal Dictionaries and the popular press. This year we studied: Obscenity and slang: Lynda Mugglestone, “‘Decent Reticence’: Coarseness, Contraception, and the First Edition of the OED” (Dictionaries 2007: 1-22); Ronald R. Butters, “’We didn’t realize that lite beer was supposed to suck!’: The Putative Vulgarity of ‘X Sucks’ in American English” (Dictionaries 2001: 130-144); Kory Stamper, “Down the ‘Shithole’: Why Lexicographers Need your Profanity” (harmless drudgery, 11 January 2018; https://korystamper.wordpress.com/); Labels: M. Lynne Murphy, “Defining Racial Labels: Problems and Promise in American Dictionaries (Dictionaries 1991: 43-64); David A. Jost and Allen C. Crocker, “The Handling of Down Syndrome and Related Terms in Modern Dictionaries” (Dictionaries 1987: 97-109); Joseph Pickett, “Considered and Regarded: Indicators of Belief and Doubt in Dictionary Definitions” (Dictionaries 2007: 48-68); A. J. Meier, “Hey Lady” (Dictionaries 1996: 180-197); and Dictionaries and the courts: Jenn Abelson, “Arguments Spread Thick,” The Boston Globe (2006) AKA “A Burrito is not a Sandwich”; Orin Hargraves, “Help for Harried Justices,” Visual Thesaurus Language Lounge 1 August 2017; Philip A. Rubin, “War of the Words: How Courts Can Use Dictionaries in Accordance with Textualist Principles” (Duke Law Review 2010, 167-206). I hope to add a unit on “Learner Dictionaries.”
submit written commentaries on each week’s reading, which I use in leading
discussion. Fifty percent of the course grade is based on the commentaries and
participation. Each student also prepares an original lexicon of family, work
or hobby terminology; there’s a vocabulary test and a final essay exam. Other
activities were a guest lecture from Walt Hakala, who discussed his research
for Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi,
and the Definition of Modern South Asia (Columbia UP, 2016), and a visit to
our Special Collections Department to examine blueback spellers and early
dictionaries from the Kempke-Root Textbook Collection.
essay questions for my final exam summarize the issues we cover and the
connections that I hope my students will make:
1. Analyze the role of the dictionary in forging or reflecting values of national identity, cultural unity or exclusivity, and/or social class or status. You may quote from any materials assigned during this course, but you must discuss quotations from at least three of the following lexicographers: Johnson, Webster, Trench, Murray, Gove, Piozzi, Roget, Stamper.
2. According to B.T.S. Atkins, “The dictionary must function as a successful act of communication between the compiler who wrote it and the person consulting it. It is a tool for the reader to use. If the tool does not work when used intelligently, then it is the toolmaker’s fault, not the user’s.” Taking Atkins’ comment as a starting point, write an essay in which you discuss the relationship of the dictionary compiler and the dictionary user. Examine the reasonable and unreasonable goals and expectations of both lexicographers and dictionary users, and the role of each in shaping the place of the lexicon in our society. You may, but need not, concentrate on a specific group of users (e.g., children, second language learners, college students, Americans, women, &c.). You may, but need not, focus on a single dictionary, dictionary format, or lexicographer.
3. Choose one topic from list A and one from list B and write an essay commenting on how the intersection of the two affects lexicography today and/or may shape lexicography in the future. A: corpus, search engines, social media, crowd-sourcing, slang; B: labels, illustrative quotations, front matter, usage.
This course is always splendid and exciting to teach. Because a syllabus, however promising, cannot convey all that a class may accomplish, I’ll conclude this essay by sharing excerpts from students’ work: the last passage is from the final exam, and the first two are from informal commentaries where the prompt was, “What is the most interesting, useful or troubling thing you have learned about lexicography this semester?”
B: [I]t did make me think,
particularly [with regard] to the Down syndrome and Mongolism definitions, whether dictionaries might be making a turn toward entries which say all and nothing at the same time. I do not remember exactly
which dictionary it was …but the definition of Down syndrome was so sanitized
that if you had no preconceived idea what or who a person with that condition
was you might not be able to understand it at all from the definition. The same
went for the entries related to disease. I wonder if in this current climate of
focus on not offending that we might [get] dictionaries defining certain items
very similar to Dr. Johnson’s choice for cow and its “a beast well known”
definition. Granted, the context behind then and now was different, however,
there is this element that lexicographers must be politically correct in their compiling
of words as well in order not to be embroiled in controversary. Will sanitation
of entries become a problem for the future of lexicography? But then again,
will online dictionaries be engaged in the same controversary as much as, say,
the MW3 had because there is less consideration of the whole text as opposed to
one entry? And will the ability to change entries easily on the fly to stave
off certain contentious words and entries? Or will it be the ability to keep up
with the modern fast paced changing connotation of words? Will dictionaries
always be a step behind?
Connor D.: Another thing to consider is the Internet and how pivotal it is in the history of lexicography. I [want] to consider something interesting that we talked about at the end of last class—the accessibility of online dictionaries as technological developments continue to be made. It’s vitally important to understand that while many privileges become available, some privileges may be closed off. Also, it asks a larger question: how should the Internet function economically? This also suggests that the central theme of lexicography may have shifted from linguistic development to language accessibility.
Felicia D: Stamper writes, ‘Censoring out profanity–especially in news–presents a false reality.’ This, in regards to slang words, profane or not, exhibits how important it is for lexicographers to compile dictionaries relevant to the way we speak, write, express ourselves. In the year 2030, we may be consorting with A.I. on a romantic level and Lil Uzi Vert may be America’s newest president. If we cannot understand his slang, his language, how will we communicate that in strongly-worded e-mails to the White House? If we are on a date with a sexy robot and they try explaining the word “covfefe” with an illustrative quotation, composed by former President Trump, will we be offended and leave?
Progress report for Mixed Blessings: The Dictionary of Blended
computers in lexicography
short-term historical lexicography
My dictionary project turns eight years old this year, and I’m
pleased to share a progress report with the Society. My last mention of the
project in the newsletter was three years ago when, in a fit of irrational
exuberance, I supplied David Jost with the following news item: “Tim Stewart
announces the imminent completion of his Dictionary of Blended Denominations,
which is due to come out this year” . Well, it’s spring 2019, and the book’s
still not finished. The least I can do is pull back the curtain and share a
little about what’s been done so far.
The dictionary, now titled Mixed Blessings (or MB for
short), is a comprehensive collection of 1,500 words I call “blended-religion
words” that were formed by combining the names of two or more religions or
religious denominations. The vast majority of these blended-religion words are
portmanteau words such as bapticostal, bujew, chrislam, conservadox,
episcopagan, fundagelical, jubu, lutepisc, mennocostal,
methobapticostal, jewnitarian, jewitch, quagan, and
sushi. A few dozen blended-religion words are compound words employing a
bound morpheme such as anglo-catholic, bapto-catholic, islamo-christian,
MB is a historical dictionary, and I chose this genre for several
• First off, I knew readers would need some convincing that these
blends are real words and not just funny combinations I made up for satirical
purposes, so MB’s citation paragraphs with bibliographical details are proof to
the skeptics that the words are circulating out there in the real world.
• I wanted to assure readers that the definitions are based on how
people actually use the words and aren’t naïvely based just on etymology, so
the citation paragraph for every sense gives credibility to the definition.
• I wanted the dictionary to be a jumping-off point for readers
who have a personal interest in learning about hybrid religious beliefs and
practices (sometimes also referred to as “multiple-religious belonging” in the
sociological and counseling literature). Thus the citations are detailed enough
to easily send readers on to the books, articles, blogs, and websites the
quotations came from, so readers can discover first-hand accounts and expert
opinions and even reach out to like-minded individuals and communities.
• I think historical dictionaries as a genre are an intriguing
nexus of challenges, from the traditional feats of compiling the word list and
collecting and selecting citations to the modern-day hurdles of database
management, typography, and page composition.
• Finally, my business plan for the MB project forecasts that
academic libraries will be the primary market, and I’m banking on the idea that
the historical dictionary format will give the dictionary greater weight in
terms of authority and value. The fact that all these citation paragraphs pump
up the page count doesn’t hurt either.
From reading other progress reports of dictionaries over the
years, I can say that the lexicographical work on MB has proceeded much like it
does for any other historical dictionary. I love that wonderful quote by Jesse
Sheidlower from his semi-recent New Yorker article: “There’s nothing terribly mysterious about the process of
writing a dictionary. You figure out what you want to include, research it, and
then write it up” . So instead of rehearsing all-too familiar processes,
steps, and tasks, I will focus on an aspect of MB that I think sets it apart
from other dictionaries, and that is my method of building the word list.
First, some background. In early 2011, before I had seen or heard
my first blended-religion word, I was blogging regularly about Christian
buzzwords and Christian language trends at my website Dictionary of Christianese, and I was getting some decent traffic (10K visitors/month) and
even some press attention in the form of radio and magazine interviews
(including PRI’s “The World in Words” and Christianity Today). The
public attention was prodding me to discover even more linguistic phenomena to
blog about, so I was doing a lot of reading and skimming of Christian
literature such as periodicals, books, and blogs, looking for prospective blog
topics and evidence of trends.
It was in the course of this reading that I stumbled across
blended-religion words. Unsurprisingly, the first ones I saw were Christian
blends. I still have a list of the first 19 of these words I found. By March
2011 I had seen: bapticostal, baptigelical, calvminian, cathodox, evangecostal,
fundagelical, pentegelical, presbycatholic, and presbycostal, and
also (these next ones are grouped together, since they hail from the same
short-lived renewal movement called “the emerging church”) agmergent,
anglimergent, baptimergent, emergematic, evangemergent, luthermergent,
methodomergent, pentemergent, presbymergent, and reformergent.
My small yet growing collection of what I was terming
“blended-denomination words” was rapidly becoming a distraction from my usual
blogging duties. Partly it was these words’ exquisite portmanteau morphology.
(Portmanteaus are my favorite type of word formation.) But there was something
else too. Religion sometimes gets characterized as being somber and even
stuffy, and I felt that these blend words were evidence of an underappreciated
creative linguistic impulse that was rattling around the hallowed halls. During
2011, my posting frequency on the Dictionary of Christianese blog ground to a
halt as I retooled my research and reading habits to find more denomination
But I faced a problem. How could I find more of these blend words?
How does one go about finding more examples of such a specific set of words?
My first strategy was to get creative with database queries and
Web searches. I searched for likely collocations such as “blend,” “dual,”
“mixed,” “grew up,” “switched,” “different denomination,” and so on. That
uncovered a few more words, but researching in this way was tedious and
Then I had an aha moment. I realized that the blend words I was
looking for were composed of bits and pieces of what was in truth a quite small
set of source words—the names of Christian denominations (e.g., Anglican,
Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist) and Christian movements (e.g., charismatic,
evangelical, fundamentalist). So why not start with the source words, combining
them in a variety of ways, and then check which combinations seem to be
attested in the real world? I felt like I was trading in my hook and line for a
of the denomination names (e.g., Angli, Bapti, Catho, Funda, Evange, Luthe,
Metho) and a list of the second halves (e.g., can, ist, olic, mentalist,
gelical, eran, odist), matched them up, and printed a list of the blends.
The results looked like Anglist, Anglolic, Anglimentalist, Baptican,
Baptolic, etc. all the way through Metheran and beyond. (In a future
paper I will go into technical detail about my implementation.)
I searched for these computed blend words using electronic
databases and Web search engines to find evidence of actual use of these terms
in print and online sources, and I found some!
Emboldened by my early success with this method, I updated the
positions, taking into account the rules of English phonology. Whereas I had
started with simply joining halves to halves, such as baptiterian and presbytist,
I was ready to work with a much larger set of computed blend words such as bresbyterian,
bapbyterian, bapterian, baptiterian, baptisterian, presbybaptist,
presbaptist, presbytist, and presbyterist. When I would
discover a denomination that I had overlooked or when I learned of a novel way
produced a fresh list with all the newly computed blends.
Nearly all of these computed blends were spurious. The success
rate on the searches was low, never exceeding 2%. But while the rate was low, it
seemed inevitable that I would eventually traverse the entire possible search
space. My method seemed guaranteed to lead to every blend word composed of two
denominations. I also searched for combinations of three and four
denominations, and all I will say about the thousands of those sesquipedalian
computed monstrosities I googled for is that I became extremely cozy with
Google’s captcha page and its puzzles to see whether I was indeed human.
Let’s fast-forward a few years. By early 2016 I felt that the
dictionary had grown large enough that I could start thinking about publishing
a dictionary. As part of investigating the feasibility of this venture, I
searched online for information about lexicographers who had published their
own dictionaries. In the course of a lot of googling and link-hopping, I
discovered Orin Hargraves’s tidy corner of the Web and the virtual shingle he had hung out offering to perform
expert reviews of dictionary projects. The offer seemed perfect for the stage I
was at, so we corresponded over email and struck a bargain, and I sent him a
rough draft of the dictionary. A couple of days later he emailed me a Word doc
containing a page and a half of insightful criticism and useful recommendations
touching on the overall design of the book as well as specific aspects and
components of it. He offered to discuss his feedback with me over a Skype call,
which I happily accepted. Orin was professional, knowledgeable, and amiable in
our dealings, which made it easier to receive his several suggestions for ways
the dictionary could be strengthened and improved. He was right on all counts,
of course. My education in lexicography was self-directed and haphazard, and he
had been doing it successfully for decades. Well, when life hands you a reality
check, cash it and keep moving!
There was one comment of Orin’s that turned out to have a far
greater impact than all his other suggestions combined. This comment changed
the course of my project and has added years to its production schedule. He
wrote in his Word doc (and I’m paraphrasing): “I see that you’ve limited your
scope to Christian terms. What about the bujews?” My reaction was, “The
bu-what-now?” I hadn’t ever heard the word bujew, so I was inclined to
dismiss the suggestion out of hand. But I dutifully googled “bujew” and
discovered that its linguistic footprint was at least as large as any of the
biggest Christian blend words I had researched. How could I have not known
As is probably obvious from the description of my method, I had
been researching within a tightly sealed bubble! My list of source words were
Christian denominations. My program computed Christian blend words based on
those source words. My databases and search techniques were biased toward
Christian publications and sources. It was humbling to look back and see how
cordoned off my research was. Learning about bujew and all the other
non-Christian blended-religion words out there became a powerful lesson for me
in the importance of sharing your ongoing work with others so they can pull you
out of your assumptions and push you into your blind spots.
After the shock wore off, it was swiftly replaced by a strong and
unshakable conviction that I mustn’t omit these non-Christian religious blends
from my project, even though it would mean starting a fresh avenue of research
to discover these new blends and collect citations and write definitions for
them. The broader scope of the project also necessitated a change in title from
Dictionary of Blended Denominations to the more inclusive Mixed
Certainly my chief aim is for MB to be an authoritative source of
lexical information about this interesting class of words. But I have a few
more goals that are of a more social bent, and the conclusion of this article
is a good place to mention a few of them.
One goal is that MB will leverage the social capital that inheres in printed dictionaries to raise the profile of the increasingly common phenomenon of multiple-religious belonging (MRB). The absence of nearly all these blended-religion terms from dictionaries has meant that people who employ them are open to criticism that they’re using “made-up words” and by extension that the hybrid religious and spiritual identities they’re attempting to describe aren’t legitimate. With the inclusion of these blended-religion terms in a printed dictionary, their legitimacy as means of self-expression will be better defended.
Another goal is that MB will help guide a variety of social
influencers such as religious ministers, teachers, therapists, journalists, and
authors. I envision this book in school libraries and in newsrooms where it
enlarges and fortifies the working vocabulary of people who talk publicly about
religion and culture. Perhaps thanks to MB we will see noticeable changes such
as journalists no longer placing these religious blend words in scare quotes,
or journalists amplifying discussions of these blend terms in news stories with
interesting linguistic data such as how long a blended-religion term has been
around and where else it has used it before (again we see the incomparable
contributions of the chronologically ordered citation paragraph!).
An additional goal is that MB will be a source of inspiration and
encouragement to religious seekers who thumb through its pages. May they see
that they are far from being the first to wander off the beaten path in search
of a more meaningful religious personality. I dream that people will sift
through the entries to find a word that help them articulate and embrace their
life story and spiritual journey. I’m excited and honored to be in a position
to apply the art and craft of lexicography to document these words and,
hopefully, share them with a large and appreciative audience.
Heartfelt thank-yous to Rebecca Shapiro and my wife Sara Stewart,
who read early drafts of this article and provided helpful feedback that forced
me to clarify my thoughts. Thanks are also due to our Executive Secretary Kory
Stamper for looking up a few old Society records for me.
The Globalex management committee met by Zoom on 15 May 2019 (9:00 CEST), with Ilan Kernerman, Simon Krek, Julia Miller, Dion Nkomo, and Lars Trap-Jensen in attendance. This Report constitutes a summary of what was discussed.*
international workshop of Globalex, GLOBALEX Workshop on Lexicography and
Neologism, was held on 8 May at the DSNA biennial meeting in Bloomington,
Indiana. The abstracts and PowerPoint presentations will be posted on the
Globalex website**; the abstracts will also appear in the July issue of Kernerman
Dictionary News, along with bios and photos of the presenters. Revised
papers will be submitted to Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society
of North America as a special refereed issue guest-edited by the
organizers, Annette Klosa-Kückelhaus and Ilan.
At DSNA’s general
business meeting, Gilles-Maurice de Schryver offered a welcome presentation
about Globalex and its goals, substituting for Lars, whose late flight change
precluded his making the presentation. The upcoming meetings of Asialex (June
19-21), Afrilex (June 26-29), and Australex (September 3-4) are expected to
have similar slots available for brief presentations about Globalex and its
The mounting of searchable
issues of the journal Lexicon on the Globalex website is progressing.
management committee keeps detailed minutes of its meetings, and a Report like
this one serves as a concise summary to inform the Continental Associations,
which are encouraged to publish the Reports on their websites.
The MC met by Zoom on 9 April 2019 (16:00 CEST), with Ed Finegan, Ilan Kernerman, Lars Trap-Jensen, and Simon Krek in attendance.
While the Globalex management committee keeps detailed
minutes of its meetings, “Reports” (like this one) serve
as concise meeting summaries to communicate efficiently to the Continental
Associations (CAs), which may publish the Reports on their websites, as DSNA
While Globalex wants to benefit from the
ELEXIS news feed service, Globalex will be able to add material, particularly from
the CAs, as one way to minimize duplication between ELEXIS and Globalex
interests. Ditto for publications on the two sites: avoiding duplication needs
to be addressed. Work on mounting Lexicon on the Globalex site is progressing.
After two successful Globalex workshops held
in conjunction with LREC, a third will be held at the DSNA biennial meeting in Bloomington,
Indiana in May. Going forward, Globalex will aim to mount events in connection
with CA conferences and with other groups so as to foster shared knowledge with
branches of endeavor outside lexicography, such as language technology and
GLOBALEX MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MINUTES JANUARY 2019
On 17 January
2019, members of the Globalex Management Committee (GMC) met via Skype (Ilan
Kernerman, Simon Krek, Julia Miller, Dion Nkomo, Lars Trap-Jensen; excused was
Ed Finegan). Ilan chaired. [This report includes updated information that
became available after the GMC met.]
Website. The 2018 and 2016 workshop sites are available (again) on the Elexis website (elex.is/category/event/). Visitors will be redirected to the Globalex URL; for the 2019 workshop, a new page was set up (globalex.link/events/globalex-workshop-2019/). The Globalex website (globalex.link/) is intended to serve as a central repository for lexicography publications, conference proceedings and recordings. Ilan and Simon will discuss further at Elexis meeting.
announcement about Globalex Workshop on Lexicography and Neologism at DSNA 2019
has been emailed. To be held in Bloomington, Indiana, 7 May, immediately
preceding the DSNA biennial meeting (dictionarysociety.com/conference/),
the workshop will have fourteen papers, five of them presented virtually. The
proceedings will appear on the Globalex website and the papers peer-reviewed
for a special issue of Dictionaries. Meanwhile,
the conference abstracts will appear in (the July 2019 issue of) Kernerman Dictionary News.
Editors forum. Following
the last meeting of the GMC, Ilan contacted the editors of Dictionaries,
IJL, Lexicography, and Lexikos, aiming to encourage cooperation on matters of common interest.
(A report on the subsequent discussion among the editors is forthcoming.)
EMLex. The EMLex (European
Master of Lexicography) will be noted on the Globalex site, as it is the most
extensive study program in lexicography. There will be a session on EMLex at
the next Afrilex meeting (afrilex.africanlanguages.com/homelex.html).
Next GMC meeting. Ilan will set a doodle poll for the week of February 11. [The meeting has been scheduled for 11 February.]
NEWS FROM DARE
Reminiscence from Roland Berns, former member of DARE staff. [Editor: I hope to gather reminiscences from members of major projects over time. This is the first. Thanks to Joan Hall for passing on my request.]
A fact of life at DARE was forever being on the edge of extinction, of running out of money. FGC and Joan were always trying to secure backing so that we could carry on the work, and more than once we all received University-mandated letters from Joan (including Joan, who had to write one to herself) that there was no assurance that our jobs would exist next year. So I recall with particular fondness our receiving a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, and FGC celebrating by bringing in a large watermelon, which we all shared. He was a word man, after all.
Visit of Joan Hall to Cambridge MA.
Joan and her husband George visited Cambridge, MA, recently to discuss DARE with its publisher, Harvard University Press. While there they had lunch with the editor of the Newsletter and also saw the Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson materials at Harvard’s Houghton Library guided by John Overholt, Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Photos of John Overholt and the Houghton Library by George E. Hall.
The American Council of Learned Societies is doubtless familiar to DSNA members chiefly through its fellowship programs. ACLS is an organization of societies whose members are humanistic and humanities-oriented social science groups. DSNA has been a member since 1994. Each constituent society is represented by a delegate, and the delegates gather each spring for an intellectually and socially stimulating 48 hours. Meeting with scores of colleagues representing other groups, including DSNA members representing other societies, is a privilege.
The 2017 meeting (May 11-13) took place in Baltimore, opening on the first evening with a compelling panel discussion called “Who Speaks, Who Listens: The Academy and the Community, Memory and Justice.” Typically, the full Friday begins with the president’s report, and in 2017 Pauline Yu (who has led ACLU since 2003) led off and was followed by “micro reports” from five of the Council’s member societies. There followed the official “Meeting of the Council” at which a formal roll call is taken and ballots and voice votes cast. Among the actions approved was the election of the Austrian Studies Association to the Council. The report on ACLS fellowships revealed that more than a dozen programs would award about $20 million to 300 fellows and grantees in 2017. At the time of the meeting, the ACLS endowment fund exceeded $125 million, and the delegates approved a 2018 fiscal year budget of nearly $29 million. There were also presentations by four fellowship winners, always a highlight. At lunch, the inspirational Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke about his experience educating urban Baltimore youth. Among the afternoon highlights was a delightful and informative public conversation between Pauline Yu and Earl Lewis, president of the Mellon Foundation, followed by breakout sessions, including one on public scholarship and another on “The Annual Conference and the Community.” The evening activities have two main events—the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture and a banquet. Harry G. Frankfurt, distinguished philosopher and author most famously of the 1986 essay “On Bullshit” was a big hit in this political year. His lecture can be viewed at (acls.org/Publications-and-Media/Haskins-Prize-Lectures/Gallery/Harry-G-Frankfurt) or read at (acls.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/OP/Haskins/Haskins_2017_HarryGFrankfurt.pdf). The banquet has no speeches: just colleagueship and a wonderful buffet meal. Breakfast on Saturday morning is informal and delegates bid goodbye to one another.
The 2018 meeting (April 26-28) took place in Philadelphia, opening on Thursday evening with a provocative panel discussion on “The Contested Campus: Speech and the Scholarly Values.” As usual, the full-day Friday began with President Pauline Yu’s report, which was followed by “micro reports,” one each from five member societies. There followed the official “Meeting of the Council” at which a roll call is taken and ballots and voice votes are cast. The report on ACLS fellowships indicated that more than a dozen programs would award about $24 million to 350 fellows and grantees. The 2019 fiscal year budget was approved at over $35 million. At the time of the meeting, the ACLS endowment fund approaches $142 million. There were also presentations by four fellowship winners and the inspirational luncheon speaker was Jon Parrish Peede, chairman-nominee of the NEA. The afternoon highlights included a panel discussion on “Democracy and the Contemporary Mediascape” and breakout sessions. The Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture and a banquet followed. Sally Falk Moore, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Anthropology Emerita at Harvard University (and a former colleague of mine at USC) gave one of the more personal and touching Haskins lectures I’ve heard. A video can be accessed at (acls.org/Publications-and-Media/Media-Collection-(1)/Haskins-Prize-Lectures/2018-Sally-Falk-Moore) or read at (acls.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/OP/Haskins/75-2018-SallyFalkMoore.pdf). All the Haskins lectures can be viewed at (acls.org/pubs/haskins/). As always, a splendid banquet followed, with colleagueship including DSNA president Luanne von Schneidemesser and executive officer Rebecca Shapiro.
year, following the regular ACLS meeting, the Conference of Executive Officers
(CEO) has one of its two annual meetings. ACLS sponsors training for Council
member CEOs and new presidents.
NEW ITEMS ADDED TO RESOURCES PAGE OF WEBSITE
The following PDFs are now accessible through the Resources Page of the DSNA Website:
1. List of past officers of the Society.
2. List of past conferences of the Society
3. List of Fellows of the Society
4. List of headings from all past Newsletters. This cannot substitute for an index but it is a way to find articles from the past Newsletters, which are also all online.
Obituary for Iseabail Macleod
It is a sobering duty this evening to write you with the news that Iseabail Macleod, longtime member of DSNA and Director of the Scottish National Dictionary Association from 1986 to 2001, has died. In the latter year she was awarded an MBE for her many contributions to Scottish lexicography. Among the greatest of these were her service as a member of the editorial team for the Concise Scots Dictionary (1985) and much more recently her co-author/editor role (with Derrick McClure) in Scotland in Definition published in 2012. Trained under Jack Aitken, she was a tireless practitioner and advocate for the highest of standards in lexicography. Her death (at the age of 81) occurred some months ago.
(Taken and edited from a message from Michael Montgomery.)
Peter Chipman has completed the
half-million-word manuscript for a dictionary of Jane Austen’s English, which
seeks to define all the words Austen employed in her six canonical novels, in
the various senses she used them in, illustrating each sense with an actual
sentence from one of the novels. He is beginning to shop the manuscript around
Rosemarie Ostler’s book Splendiferous Speech: How Early Americans Pioneered Their Own Brand of English was published in November 2018 by Chicago Review Press. Using Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms as a starting point, the book explores the main sources of the American vernacular — the expanding western frontier, the bumptious world of nineteenth-century politics, and the sensational pages of the penny press. It also looks at how Americans gradually shook off their reverence for British linguistic standards and learned to appreciate their own speech. Rob Kyff of the Hartford Courant calls the book “exhilarating.” http://www.rosemarie-ostler.com/
Lindsay Rose Russell announces the publication of her
first book, Women
and Dictionary Making: Gender, Genre, and English Language Lexicography Cambridge University Press;
August 2018 (UK), September 2018 (US). Tracing the craft of dictionary making
from the fifteenth century to the present day, the book explores the vital but
little-known significance of women and gender in the creation of English
In a recent article in the Boston Globe, Kory Stamper discusses the origins of the “Word of the Year” phenomenon and shares insights on that phenomenon from a host of lexicographers and other “word nerds” whose names will be familiar to DSNA members: Grant Barrett, Katherine Connor Martin, Allan Metcalf, Helen Newstead, Peter Sokolowski, Jane Solomon, Don Stewart, and Ben Zimmer.
of the above-listed luminaries were also present on January 4th when the
American Dialect Society decided on its Word of the Year at the society’s
annual meeting, held in New York City in conjunction with the Linguistic
Society of America. Presiding over the selection was Ben Zimmer, chair of the society’s New Words Committee and
DSNA member. After intense discussions among a few hundred attendees, the
overall winner for 2018 Word of the Year was selected: “tender-age shelter,” the
bureaucratic term for a government-run detention center housing the children of
asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border. “The use of highly euphemistic
language to paper over the human effects of family separation was an indication
of how words in 2018 could be weaponized for political necessity,” Zimmer explained
in the press release. “But the bureaucratic phrasing ended up backfiring, as
reports of the term served to galvanize opposition to the administration’s
border policy.” Other winners in the voting included “techlash” as Digital Word
of the Year, “yeet” as Slang/Informal Word of the Year, and “(the) wall” as
Political Word of the Year. For complete results, see the ADS press
In this issue you will find news of the upcoming conference in Bloomington, Indiana. You will also find some new resources for our society including a complete list of headings to all past newsletters. Win Carus has discussed computational lexicography and Cynthia Barnhart has written about the history of our profession. Lisa Berglund tells us how she teaches lexicography and David Vancil describes some very important lexicographical projects.
I hope to see you in Bloomington.
Joan Hall and the editor in Harvard’s Widener Library in front of DARE. For more see Dictionary News.
The 22nd Biennial Meeting of the Dictionary Society of
North America will begin with a session of papers beginning at 4:00 on
Wednesday, May 8, 2019, followed by a celebratory opening reception, and end
with a business meeting and a session on Saturday afternoon, May 11, 2019. It
will be an intense but satisfying immersion in matters lexicographical and
lexicological, and the conference will be worth attending even if you aren’t
presenting a paper. I invite you to join us! You can register and arrange a
hotel or residence hall room at the conference website: https://www.indiana.edu/~iucweb/dsna/.
The Indiana University Memorial Union is the setting
for nearly all the conference, and the hotel is part of the Union complex. If
you arrive earlier on Wednesday, you’ll feel lexicographical electricity in the
air, even though the conference won’t yet have started. Two pre-conference
seminars/workshops will take place from Wednesday morning until the opening
reception. One of these, Descriptive and Prescriptive Approaches in
Lexicography, has been organized by Ed Finegan. The other is the Globalex
Workshop on Lexicography and Neologism (GWLN 2019), organized and led by Ilan
Kernerman and Annette Klosa. Members of the seminar and workshop were invited
by the respective organizers, and papers will have been pre-circulated — that
is, attendance is not open to all. Have no fear, however, you will not miss out
on all the fun. We’ll print workshop/seminar abstracts in the conference book.
I understand also that the proceedings of both will be published as special
issues of Dictionaries — eventually, then,
we’ll all have access to polished versions of these pre-conference programs.
We might arrange yet one more pre-conference event,
for anyone arriving on Tuesday or Wednesday morning but who isn’t involved with
the seminar/workshops. In 2009, DSNA bussed to the Warren N. and Suzanne B.
Cordell Collection of Dictionaries at Indiana State University’s Cunningham
Memorial Library, en masse. Probably,
not everyone attending DSNA 22 will want to revisit the collection. A trip to
Terre Haute (90 minutes each way) would grievously interrupt the schedule of
papers, so it makes sense to offer it as a pre-conference excursion. Also,
buses cost a lot of money. Last fall, the college program I direct took two
buses of newly admitted students on its annual retreat, at $2000/bus — it would
cost $4000 to take the whole conference on a field trip. On the conference
registration page, we ask whether you would like to visit the Cordell
Collection on Wednesday, May 8. If you would, check the box, and we’ll try to
provide just the right amount of transportation for those who are interested.
Since the beginning, DSNA’s biennial conference has been entirely plenary — everyone has been able to listen to everything. Such a format provides room for very few DSNA members to present papers, however. We had a phenomenal response to the call for papers for DSNA 22; as a result, we have decided to run parallel sessions, so that we include all the excellent submissions on the program and involve as many DSNA members as possible. We will have 44 papers/panels with 70 authors on offer this May, which treat the following subjects among many others — given the embarrassment of riches, there are too many to list here: children and dictionaries in the American Federalist period; an explanatory dictionary of idioms; the origins of galoot and put the kibosh on; a dictionary of New England French; ten years of Wordnik; Slovenian reflections on the philosophy of lexicography; dictionary front matter; eighteenth-century dictionary attempts to cover up same-sex desire; emojis and the lexicographers who resist them; the lexicography of English at the Real Academia Española; Canadianisms in the Collins Canadian Dictionary; a Sanskrit corpus dictionary; the Differential, Historical, and Etymological Dictionary of Louisiana French; the history of English guy; word apps and the public; Spanish literature and English antedatings; dictionaries v. encyclopedias; occupations in Webster’s spellers and school dictionaries; the Western Canadian Dictionary and settling the Canadian West; ELEXIS; “responsive” dictionaries; how EFL dictionaries help non-native speakers read political texts; the Lexique de Saint Barthélemy; Francis Grose and the OED; the rise of modern lexicography out of classical studies; making a cybersecurity style guide; the new Middle English Dictionary; new meanings for old words in dictionaries of Italian and Spanish; the intersecting histories of hobby, horse, and hobby horse; corpus analysis and users’ perspectives in the making of a Portuguese-English e-dictionary of verbs for Brazilian students; English v. American introductions to the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations; Charles Sanders Peirce’s definitions in the Century Dictionary; and Ramaseeana: Or a Vocabulary of the Peculiar Language Used by the Thugs. I am quick to point out the program’s variety — far from exclusively Anglophone, not overly historical, but a cornucopia of accounts of projects, theory, lexicological analysis, history, ideologies, e-lexicography, learner’s dictionaries, much of it forward-looking and cutting-edge. Anyone hungry for new and important research on dictionaries and lexicography will leave DSNA 22 sated — at least, until the next conference comes along.
Of course, conferences
aren’t just about papers, and there will be lots of occasions to socialize, for
instance, during two receptions and the banquet, as well as other meal and
break times, and after hours. The two receptions require some explanation. The
first, on Wednesday afternoon, is generously provided by Indiana University’s Office
of the Bicentennial. Indiana University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020
and to that end has offered support to conferences and projects that emphasize
Indiana University’s unique contributions to learning and public service. The
conference grant and the reception it supports, among other things, identify
one outstanding example of Indiana University’s contribution to lexicography.
In 1960, Fred W. Householder and Sol Saporta organized what was known simply as
the Dictionary Conference — the first conference dedicated to lexicography in
North America — the proceedings of which were published in 1962 as Problems in Lexicography, a volume some
readers of this article know well, and others have encountered in footnotes.
The book was slightly revised into a second edition, published in 1967, then
reprinted with minor changes in 1975. It has been widely influential since its
publication, but it’s also been out of print for decades. I am currently
finishing a third edition of Problems in
Lexicography for Indiana University Press, production of which is
subsidized by the Bicentennial grant. The articles will remain as published in
1967, though the entire text will be re-formatted and styled consistently — not
the case with the original — with a complete references section and an index.
In addition, the volume will include a thorough historical and critical
introduction to the conference, the book, and their considerable influence, as
well as annotations for each article that provide a biography of its author, its
place in the author’s intellectual career, and its impact on lexicography,
linguistics, and related fields. The book will not be in print by the
conference — I had hoped to slip a copy into each participant’s bag — but it
will be available later in the year, and a gratis
copy will be sent to each conferee.
The second reception will
be hosted by the Lilly Library at the Lilly Library, associated with an exhibit
we hope will inform and delight DSNA members. The Lilly is one of North
America’s premier research libraries and its dictionary holdings are deep: they
include a large collection of “contact” dictionaries — compiled by
missionaries, explorers, and merchant adventurers — from around the world, Eric
Partridge’s papers, Richard Chenevix Trench’s annotated copy of Charles
Richardson’s A New Dictionary of the
English Language (1836–37), and much more, in many languages. Recently,
Cynthia Barnhart donated 9 tons of Barnhart family dictionary materials to the
Lilly, not an ounce of which is currently processed and available for research,
but we hope to pull out some items of special interest for the exhibit. The
reception acknowledges and celebrates this remarkable gift, and we have our
fingers crossed that Cynthia will join us in Bloomington, when the time comes.
Believe it or not,
there’s yet more to look forward to, for instance, outgoing DSNA President
Steve Kleinedler’s post-banquet valedictory address, titled (as are all such
DSNA valedictories) “A Life in Lexicography”; and a performance of “The Big
Book,” the musical Philip Gove wrote about the making of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961), originally presented
at the party he threw for the Merriam-Webster staff upon triumphant completion
of Webster’s Third. I should include
some postcards in the conference bags — you’ll want to write to family,
friends, and colleagues about these lexicographical wonders!
The registration fee is set at USD220 (USD110 for students), higher than I’d hoped, but lower than many another conference. The fee includes, besides the basic conference apparatus (badge, program book, rooms, audio-visual equipment and support, etc.), breakfasts, morning beverages, afternoon snacks, the receptions, and banquet — and, on top of that, you will receive a copy of Problems in Lexicography as a bonus. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to write to Michael Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you in Bloomington in May.
10th International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology, ICLHH-10, June 12-14, 2019, Leeuwarden-Ljouwert, Netherlands. Contact Willem Visser, CFP Jan. 15, 2019. https://www.fryske-akademy.nl/ichll10/
13th International Conference of the Asian Association for Lexicography, ASIALEX 2019, June 19-21, 2019, Istanbul, Turkey. Contact Mehmet Gurlek, CFP March 15, 2019. http://asialex2019.istanbul.edu.tr/en/
(Historical) Lexicography of the Landscape
and the Digital Age, May 22-25, 2019, Göttingen, Germany, Contact Wiebke Blanck, email@example.com
Joint Biennial Conference of the Dictionary Society of North America and Studies in the History of the English Language, DSNA-22, SHEL-11, May 8-11, 2019, Bloomington, IN, USA Contact: Michael Adams, CFP Oct. 31, 2018. https://dictionarysociety.com/conference/,
Lexicon and Genre Boundaries, Oct. 10-12, 2019, Bayonne, Basque Country, France, Contact Christine Copy, firstname.lastname@example.org CFP Oct. 15, 2018.