In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

1 90Reviews The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English. 2006. Grant Barrett. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pp. 448. i: "t is always a pleasure to read a fun, well-constructed collection Lof lexical information. The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English ( TODUE) by Grant Barrett (GB) is no exception. In fact, due to the explosion of informal online wordlists, his book is a rarity among new word compendia nowadays: well-written and accurate. The dearth of lexicographical skills involved in slang and new coinages is readily on display when non-lexicographers attempt to define. Collections of word lists and their meanings abound, either as jokey books of the type one normally finds in the guest bathroom or as amateurish Web sites. The Internet is littered with attempts to catalog slang and neologisms. Relatively few works are actually compiled and written by people who know what they are doing. What sets GB's book (and his Web site, apart from the riffraff is his background as a working lexicographer. Further, what sets GB's work apart from that of many other lexicographers' is his assiduous use of the Internet to mine incredibly rich nuggets of lexical data from the uncountably immense number of words floating around in cyberspace. I have had the pleasure of watching GB firsthand as he trawls through the material that his grepfilters have coughed up (grep is a means of sorting on strings in UNIX; the filters pare the sort further — WF).1 By casting his net on the Net, searching for items that fall into a handful of semantic frames, GB tracks nascent lexical items in order to gauge their trajectory. Do they fladine along the x-axis of the lexicographical dustbin? Or do they vector outward toward the jackpot: actual inclusion in a collection of interesting, new words? TODUE contains 750 examples of such sleuthing. A handful, in fact, have been enshrined permanently as actual entries in an established dictionary. GB explains his modus operandi in the engaging introduction. He describes the methods by which he conducts his research for new lexical information (including the grepping tasks I have mentioned above) as well as the methods by which standard lexicographers have traditionally accomplished this task. 1It is a humorous contrast that I happen to be writing the first draft of this review longhand in a hotel room in Decatur, GA, because I hate traveling with a laptop. What is not humorous is that my handwriting turns into an indecipherable sprawl by the time I reach the conclusion. Dictionaries:Journal oftheDictionary Sodety ofNorth America 28 (2007), 190-194 Reviews191 The criteria that GB uses for including words in TODUE are very simple : "A lexical item is first considered for inclusion in this book because it is interesting or new to me" (p. xi, italics mine) . How wonderful and exciting a task it is to have the opportunity to focus on interesting words instead of having to sort through all the dreary words that traditionally occupy a lexicographer's time. Such a scenario is fortunate for GB, because it allows him to write interesting things about interesting words; fortunate for the readership, because a true glimpse into the daily drudgery of lexicography would be most uncompelling. GB explains the manner by which he obtains and presents citations. The importance of this aspect of his compilation technique cannot be overstated , because it is the major element that sets scholarly and professional lexicography apart from the amateurs. Too many Web sites exist where hundreds of Web pages can be clicked through without the browser seeing one shred of attribution. As a former project editor of the Historical Dictionary ofAmerican Slang (1994ff.j, GB is extremely knowledgeable regarding the makeup of dictionary entries and the importance of good citations; his experience is one of the elements that give TODUE such a solid foundation. Before the reader arrives at the 405-page A-Z section, there is first an 18-page section that consists of an interesting hodgepodge of semantically related topics: • Words of the Latest War: words that have sprung up from the war in Iraq.2 • Glishes: a fine essay on mixtures of particular languages with English . This section...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 190-194
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.