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Definitions and Usage E.W. Gilman INoah Porter, editor-in-chief of the 1864 edition of Webster's Dictionary, wrote in the Preface that his predecessor, Chauncey A. Goodrich, had for some time been contemplating a thorough revision of what were called "the principal words" in the dictionary. When work on the 1864 edition was beginning (ca. 1859), Goodrich decided to put his ideas into practice and began tentative revisions with the assistance of two veteran editors. It became apparent that more help would be needed—Goodrich's health was failing (he died in 1860) and there were a lot of "principal words." To answer the need, two Yale professors were added to the staff: Daniel Coit Gilman and William Dwight Whitney. Porter is rather cautious in his description of the revisions Goodrich had in mind. Certainly the Merriam company did not want to give the dictionary-buying public the idea that Webster's work was being summarily dumped. The basic idea seems to have been the collection of related senses into more tighdy organized groupings in fewer numbered senses. The verb raise supplies an example: Webster's 36 numbered senses, elaborated from the 21 in Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary, have been reduced to 6, with numerous subsenses. So Whitney would have gained considerable experience in the organization and integration of definitions. It is obvious that he and Gilman did a great deal of work: tiiey are mentioned three separate times in the Preface. Whether Whitney carried Goodrich's principles into his second career in lexicography, as editor-in-chief of the Century, may be doubted, if raise is a valid example. Ogilvie's original TL· Imperial Dictionary (1847-1850), which was based on Webster's 1841 edition, had the same 36 senses as Webster's did. Annandale, who would have had plenty of time to examine the 1864 Webster while working ca. 1880 on his revision ofthe Imperial, reduced these to seven. Almost all ofhis sub- 56E.W. Gilman senses match the 1864 Webster exactiy. But the Century went back in the direction ofJohnson and Noah Webster: there are 22 numbered senses with no subsenses. It should be noted that not all long entries in Webster (1864) received the Goodrich treatment, and the Century does not always eschew subsenses. The noun matter, for instance, has 10 numbered senses in Webster (1864), none of them subdivided. The Century has 17 numbered senses, of which three are subdivided. But in general the Century does not seem to use much elaborate subordination of senses. For help in directing my ramble through the definitions, I turned to a 1913 dissertation on American dictionaries by Stewart Archer Steger and to the Preface to the reissued edition by Professor Robert A. Fowkes, looking first at those entries they picked out as admirable . After these, I simply browsed around, not only by choice, but by necessity, as neither Steger nor Fowkes was very interested in definitions . Whitney's Preface—like most such prefaces—doesn't tell us much about the defining. The bulk of the general vocabulary defining seems to have been done by the managing editor and the editorial assistants . William's brother, Henry M. Whitney (there were three Whitney brothers on the staff) , is credited with helping out with the later parts of the work, when the schedule was probably getting tight. The one female editorial assistant was saddled with the handling and verification of the quotations. To start with a few definitions that Steger admired, we first encounter adversity. Here the Century definer dumped Annandale's specious second sense, based on a citation from Shakespeare in which the word is used in direct address as an epithet. Then he has divided the first sense into count and noncount uses. These are arranged in correct historical order, possibly because there is a Shakespeare quotation at the first that is older than the King James Bible quotation at the second. This is a distinct improvement on Annandale. Steger also admired admiration. Here the Century editor took Annandale's first two senses with litde modification; these passed essentially untouched from Noah Webster (1828) into the pages of the Century. The Century editor added two more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 55-67
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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