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  • Patrick "Paddy" Drysdale (1929–2020)
  • Stefan Dollinger and Victoria Neufeldt

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Paddy and Olwen Drysdale, on a cruise in Scotland several years ago (Photo courtesy of the family)

Patrick Dockar Drysdale, Paddy to those who knew him, passed away on December 9, 2020 in hospital in Oxford, England, after a brief illness. Canadian linguistics owes a lot to Paddy. A longtime member of the Canadian Linguistic [End Page 275] Association, Paddy held central roles in the field for nearly 30 years, roles mostly out of the limelight yet essential. Paddy was the last of the founding generation of linguists who were centrally concerned with the original description and codification of Canadian English.

A degree holder from Oxford, Paddy was Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Memorial University in Newfoundland from 1956 to 1959. In 1959 he left Memorial, lured by the offer of a newly established editorial position with the publisher W. J. Gage Inc. in Toronto to oversee, in close collaboration with Canadian linguists, the research, development and production of the Dictionary of Canadian English series for schools. The three dictionaries in the series were based on the Scott-Foresman school dictionaries, thoroughly revised and edited for their intended Canadian audience. The new dictionaries were published successively in 1962 (The Beginning Dictionary), 1964 (The Intermediate Dictionary), and 1967 (The Senior Dictionary). Starting from existing dictionaries and thoroughly adapting every entry for the intended audience –and adding and purging some –is industry practice to this day. In the 1990s, at the height of the Canadian dictionary war, the method would be held against the Gage Canadian Dictionary (1997), which was the fifth edition of The Senior Dictionary, by critics who had lost their connection with lexicography.

Concurrently with this commitment to the school dictionaries, the publisher, under the leadership of the vice-president of publishing, W. R. Wees, had taken on an enormous venture, a first in Canadian publishing: a historical dictionary of Canadianisms. And so, soon after he arrived, Paddy found himself intimately involved with that lexicographical flagship project, DCHP-1 (Avis et al. 1967). He was the sole editorial staff member devoted to overseeing the four dictionaries, which, collectively, "succeeded in bringing Canadian English into print, and, more importantly, into our consciousness" (Chambers 2019). Paddy took special pride in DCHP-1 throughout his life. It was, in the words of Sidney Landau, then with Random House, "the best thing to happen in lexicography since Mathews' Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles [in 1951]" (Dollinger 2019: 129). Very high praise from the competition indeed.

Born in Shropshire, England, on 9 July, 1929 and named William Patrick Rolleston Dockar-Drysdale (with or without the hyphen, Paddy the editor might have remarked). Paddy had arrived in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1955, working as stage manager with the London Theatre Company. He had long been interested in theatre and was traveling with his young wife, Olwen (Rasbridge), also employed by the LTC. When the theatre season ended and the company returned to London, Paddy and Olwen decided to stay in Canada when he was offered the position at Memorial University. Paddy's interest in language and expressions of identity led him to become a major figure in the study of Canadian English, as he focused on dialectology and lexicography. In 1959, he left his safe tenure-track environment "almost on a whim" (Drysdale in Dollinger 2019: 100) to join W. J. Gage in Toronto and shoulder the responsibility for what was an audacious new dictionary publishing project whose conceptual underpinnings then only existed as a vague idea. The dictionaries would become the first full dictionary series of any variety [End Page 276] of English beyond British and American and as such, innovative in a World Englishes perspective that would gestate only much later. The project would produce decidedly descriptive and uncompromisingly Canadian reference works. As in-house coordinating editor, Paddy oversaw the conception, creation, production and multiple revisions of the titles between 1958 and 1982, in close collaboration with a team of academic linguists around Walter S. Avis (1919–1979), Charles J. Lovell (1907–1960), Matthew H. Scargill (1916–1997), Robert J. Gregg...


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