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Clarence L. Barnhart and Quotations for New Words in American Dictionaries David K. Barnhart Clarence Barnhart's interest in die changing English vocabulary can be traced at least to his association with I. Willis Russell. The first recognition of Barnhart's contributions was in the OctoberDecember 1945 issue of "Among the New Words" in American Speech. Their regular correspondence seems to have started before die first letter in Barnhart's files, which is dated January 26, 1948, a note about other work that pressed Barnhart to resign from die Committee on New Words. Later that same year a letter of Barnhart's reveals that new words were still on his mind: Thank you very much for the answer to my question [concerning ] the first occurrence of an acronym. Allen Walker Read cites the same source but mentions a Professor Pearce who is interested in first quotations of the use of acronym. ... I still have not received the appropriation [from the publisher] which will enable me to work on new words, but I rather look forward to getting it between now and the first of the year. I will let you know just as soon as I get the money. You are correct in assuming that I would like to rejoin the committee. Indeed, Barnhart was recognized in 23 introductions to "Among the New Words" between 1948 and 1980—a span of nearly 35 volumes. Only Mamie Meredith, Peter Tamony, James B. McMillan, and the indefatigable I. Willis Russell contributed more often. Dictionary of United States army terms Prior to the interest in new words that Barnhart expressed to 66David K. Barnhart Russell, he had tackled a project of constructing a dictionary for the War Department under contract to the American Council of Learned Societies. It was based in part on the collection of quotations from Army training manuals. This project is mentioned here because it was a very important event in Barnhart's learning about quotation files and how to construct them. He has recalled: In order to decide whether a term should be included it is necessary to know the frequency of the term, its range throughout the Army, the basic branch whose usage is the deciding factor, and the dates of publication of manuals in which the term occurs. ... A study of the first 100 terms in the file shows that there were 195 data cards for these 100 terms or an average of less than two data cards per term. 60% of the terms had only one data card; 21% had two data cards; 19% had three or more data cards per term. (Unpublished style manual for Barnhart 1944) In reviewing this project Barnhart noted that the collection of data cards was inadequate, reminiscent of the laments of Sir James A. H. Murray and the early collection of material for the OED, as reported by K. M. E. Murray in Caught in the Web of Words ... : "James later found that with a few notable exceptions the original material was so bad and so rarely to be trusted that he often wished he had made a bonfire of it and started afresh" (Murray 1977, 169). Similarly, Barnhart (1991) remarked: We could of course stop all editing and collect adequate data to do the defining or plunge ahead with what we had. Every dictionary editor must face this problem; we really had no choice; the Chinese army was being outfitted at the time and a standardization of terms was essential. Years later he wondered what had ever happened to those data cards. The last he had heard of them they were in a wooden boxcar on a siding in a military depot in Kansas. The Barnhart quotation file Barnhart's first introduction to quotation files was under the tutelage of Sir William Craigie at the University of Chicago where class assignments in lexicography included work for the Dictionary of American English. Then in the late 1940s, following his work on The Clarence L Barnhart and Quotations for New Words67 American College Dictionary for Random House, Barnhart established his own company in Bronxville, New York. The contractual arrangements with Scott, Foresman and Doubleday called for the establishment of a quotation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 65-78
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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