By John E. McIntyre
The Baltimore Sun
10:19 AM EST, February 20, 2013
W.H. Auden trawled the Oxford English Dictionary for old and obscure words, some of which he employed in his poetry. He was so fond of the OED that he often took a volume of it to bed at night. We here in Wordville understand that.
Thus there is joy in Wordville, along with what might be described as excitement, at news of developments in lexicography.
We find out from Allan Metcalf at Lingua Franca that Webster's New World College Dictionary, which appeared to be dormant, perhaps even moribund, under John Wiley's ownership, has been sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publisher of the American Heritage Dictionary. Webster's New World is the dictionary the Associated Press Stylebook primarily relies on, so those of us who have been soldiering on with editions from the previous century may breathe a soft huzzah at the prospect of an edition produced in the current one.
Joy and excitement are also to be found at the venerable Merriam-Webster Inc., where the irrepressible Kory Stamper announced last month that the Unabridged is coming. And will be online. (The initial comments to her post were decidedly churlish, complaining that something simpler and easier to use, like Webster's New World of 1968 (!) would be preferable. Those who fear Too Much Information will be grateful for the news in the previous paragraph.)*
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been busy on its own, recently bringing out a second edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (506 pages, $15.95). Edited by Christine Ammer, it is an impressive compendium of American idiomatic expressions and phrases. The other day, when my copy editing class was baffled by the expression flat out in a text, I could have referred them to this handy volume: flat out 1. In a direct manner, bluntly ... 2. At top speed. ...
Oxford University Press has brought out a third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Reference and Allusion (404 pages, $18.95). Edited by Andrew Delahunty and Sheila Dignen, it is not as comprehensive as Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, but it is more convenient to consult a single volume than to go back and forth between two.
So if you're keen to gorge on words, there are several tempting dishes on offer.
Addemdum: Of course, one always omits somethng, but it is a shame that I left out the Dictionary of American Regional English. The fifth volume of DARE came out a year ago, and later in 2012 the sixth and final volume, with maps, index, and additional apparatus, was published. Now DARE is going digital, and that huge repository of Americana, the collective inventiveness and raciness of our colloquial speech, will be available electronically, in its entirety, with continual updates. Huzzah!
*Speaking of Merriam-Webster, its editor-at-large, the amiable Peter Sokolowski, will be the keynote speaker at the American Copy Editors Society's national conference in St. Louis in April. You will not want to miss him.
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