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ON THE CONCEPT "HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES" IN DICTIONARIES OF SUB-CULTURES Thomas L. Clark Every lexicographer who begins the task of making a dictionary must essay the scope of the collection. We can rarely hope to include everything we would like included; nor can we certainly include everything our critics swear we should have included. Not even the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary could hope to assay the entire corpus of English. Consequently, every lexicographer begins the labor by setting out a list of guiding principles for the size of the collection, the items to be included, the methods for acquisition of citations . In addition, there must be rules for listing headwords, pronunciations, cross-references. Early on, the lexicographer must decide whether or not to follow historical principles in creating the dictionary. In those collections of words which, for the most part, sit above the salt, the traditional guidelines of historical principles are fairly firm: list the earliest and latest occurrences, along with citations which reflect a change in the history, form, or sense of the word. But when a lexicographer is dealing with words which sit below the salt, the problems of what constitutes historical principles become intractable, more interesting. David W. Maurer was one of the great students of those words which have no pedigree. He observed that collecting the language of a sub-culture outside the technical, scientific, professional, or occupational sub-cultures is a chancy business at best. "The continuity of any sub-culture," he said, "is heavily dependent on keeping a significant part of the usage exclusive, since the sub-culture loses its identity once its language is adopted by the dominant culture" (Maurer 1973:85). Obviously, then, an attempt to record the lexicon of particular sub-cultures will result in the necessity for finding unpublished citations. Determining the history of individual words will not be so difficult, because many words used in sub-cultures have a long and documented history. Rather, the lexicographer will spend more time puzzling over the later development in the meanings of words. In compiling a dictionary of terms peculiar to sub-cultures outside of the technical or scientific fields, the lexicographer encounters more neosemanticisms than neologisms. New words rarely are created. More often, standard English words are given metaphoric extension or undergo some other form of semantic shift. By way of example, here is a portion of an interview of a member of the gambling sub-culture. This interview was taken for data collection relative to a project called The Dictionary of Gaming Based on Historical Principles. The interviewee ("informant" is not a word used in interviewing members of certain sub-cultures) is a person who makes a living as a player of a specialized form of poker. The interviewer is learning how to play Hold 'em, also known as Texas Hold 'em or Hold Me Darling. In Hold 'em, two hole cards are dealt face down to each player. The player on the button acts as dealer, even though the house dealer actually shuffles and deals 2 "Historical Principles" the cards. The play rotates to the left. The first player is usually the blind, though some games have a double-blind or an overblind. The next player must call the player in the blind or fold. Since there is a live blind opening, more action may develop. The house dealer then burns and turns the flop. The flop is three cards face up on the board. All players use these community cards, plus their hole cards, to bet the next round. If you're sitting there with aces wired and the flop comes, say, ace, ace, rag, then you've got the immortals . . . that's what they call the nuts. With a lock like that, you start jamming the pot, though a good player would sandbag that hand. Anyway, after that betting round, the dealer makes the turn, that is, the fourth street card. After another betting round, the dealer turns the river card. Then they check, bet, or call and maybe raise. Each player uses the best five cards to make a hand. That is, he uses any of the five community cards on deck and his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 1-6
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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