A Glossary of Words and Phrases "Peculiar to the United States": The Aims and Strategies of John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Volume 41, Issue 2, 2020
- pp. 147-176
- Additional Information
John Russell Bartlett, author of the 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms, came to lexicography indirectly through his fascination with American popular culture. Nonetheless, he shaped his dictionary to conform for the most part with standard dictionaries of the time. Any deviations are usually for the purpose of serving his larger goals, such as providing cultural background. This article argues that it's worth examining Bartlett's work to understand which features of dictionaries seemed essential to a mid-nineteenth-century vernacular lexicographer. His decisions are interesting partly because he was thinking about some of the same issues as more professional lexicographers of that era, for instance how to use illustrative quotations. Bartlett was also important as a recorder of vernacular English. His work preserves many examples of slang and colloquial speech that would otherwise have been lost. The article introduces Bartlett as a scholar, and then takes a detailed look at his aims and strategies as he compiled the dictionary. A following section describes the dictionary's evolution through subsequent editions and a final section discusses Bartlett's influence on later lexicographers.