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Following Kurath: An Appreciation V L· William A. Kretzschmar, Jr. "never met Hans Kurath. When I worked for a while at the .Middle English Dictionary (MED) twenty-six years ago, he was definitely present in spirit — his academic dress still hung on a hook in the top-floor offices in Angelí Hall at that time — but he was then over 80 years old and no longer came in. When I first worked on the Linguistic Atlas at the University of Chicago, Raven McDavid would every now and then receive a letter from "Uncle Hans," in his own rather perpendicular German-style handwriting, and I even wrote something for the congratulatory volume of letters for Kurath's ninetieth birthday, but I was writing to a stranger and never got any letters from him myself. We still keep Kurath's picture on the wall of die Linguistic Adas office as our paterfamilias, yet he must remain a man I never saw. However, even though we never met in person, I have lived Hans Kurath's life. We share many places and schools andjobs — in particular, we are two people (of the three I know of, with Fred Cassidy) who have worked on the MED and also on die American Linguistic Adas project. Part of Kurath's life I have lived backwards, going from the MED to the Adas instead of the other way around, as Kurath did, and I think tiiat the reversal gives me the perspective to appreciate Kurath's achievement, especially on the MED, and that is my subject here, how Kurath's experience with the Atlas affected his decisions on the MED. You may find that my living his life backwards, as happened with the magician Merlin in the King Arthur legend, has merely made me foolishly susceptible to being led astray. But I hope not, at least as regards "Uncle Hans." First some parallels between Kurath and me. We were born 62 years apart, but both on die same day of the month, a lucky day, die 13th. After he immigrated as a child, Kurath grew up in the city of Milwaukee; Dictionaries:Journal oftheDictionary Society ofNorth America 23 (2002) 1 1 6 William A. Kretzschmar, Jr. I too grew up in Milwaukee after immigration in early life (but I only had to come from Ann Arbor, not all the way from Austria like Kurath) . I took my first college-level course at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee , the same institution where Kurath began college; he continued his studies at the University of Wisconsin and finished at Texas, while I took a degree at Michigan, where he later taught. We both went on to take the doctorate at the University of Chicago. Before that I took a detour for an M.A. at Yale, but Kurath took his Yale detour somewhat later in his career, as a Visiting Professor (Scholler 1973, 1). Conversely, I taught in the University of Wisconsin system, while Kurath only studied there. We both had a Southern adventure, but I went to Georgia, not to Texas as Kurath had. Is this sounding spooky yet? There's more. My first academic employment, as I alluded earlier, was at the MED while I was still an undergraduate here at Michigan, first as a student volunteer, then as a paid assistant for a summer when the MED first got its funding from the Mellon Foundation. That experience marked me, as much or more than anything else I did at Michigan, and I hope that you will forgive me the foolishness of a reminiscence or two. I learned about lexicography there in a very practical way, first from Frances McSparran, and then from everybody on staff, especially Helen Kao and Dick McKelvey, who were all very kind to explain dictionary life to a very young but very interested listener. For example, I took the special MED sorting boards for granted as a standard tool for semantic analysis, even though Sherman Kuhn has written that they were invented for use on the MED (1982, 28). My mainjob was to verify quotations and to update the bibliographical information on citation slips that the MED had inherited from Oxford and other...


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