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Life or Lexicography: How Popular Culture Imitates Dictionaries
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Life or Lexicography:
How Popular Culture Imitates Dictionaries
Andrea R. Nagy
Yale University
Andrea R. Nagy

Andrea R. Nagy is Lecturer in English at Yale University. She has written extensively on the history of dictionaries in seventeenth-century England, and she was a project editor for the New Oxford American Dictionary (2001).


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1. From a NationsBank billboard advertisement, Interstate 95 North outside of Baltimore, Maryland, November 1997. Because much of the evidence for this article is ephemeral, readers would find reproductions of advertisements and other items helpful; however, proprietary restrictions on such material prohibit reproduction here. Also, given the difficulty of constructing bibliographic entries fr this evidence, references for dictionary imitations presented in the text are provided in footnotes. All other references appear, as usual, at the end of the article.

2. Wrigley's Spearmint Gum advertisement, People (29 January 1990).

3. Throughout this article, when I speak of "the dictionary," I refer to the genre and to the conventions that dictionaries generally follow.

4. From Praxis 2.1 (Spring 1998), published by the Center for Christian Study, Charlottesville, Virginia.

5. From NewsSmith (Fall 1998, 4), published by the Smith College Office of College Relations.

6. From the Lands' End "Back to School" catalogue (Fall 1998, 2).

7. From an advertisement for the Boston University Editorial Institute in Lingua Franca (November 2000, 33).

8. Colin Dexter, The Dead of Jericho (New York: Random House, 1981), p. 141.

9. Michael P. Branch and Daniel J. Philippon, eds. The Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1998).

10. Quoted from Mad (May 1997, 357).

11. Supplied by Deborah Leslie, in an e-mail to the author, 6 February 1998.

12. Quoted from the "Humorous Dictionary"<http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/humdict.html> (accessed 19 January 2004).

13. From "Style Invitational," The Washington Post (2 August 1998, F1), and an e-mail to the author by Humphrey Mar, dated 22 January 1998, seriatim.

14. Quoted from Jim Neddick's "Robot Man," Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1998.

15. From a billboard advertisement for the law firm in the Louisville, Kentucky...