The Story of Ain't by David Skinner
America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published

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...it’s a pity that his book ends where the Third did: eclipsed by plans announced in 1964 for an American Heritage Dictionary, after American Heritage took over Webster’s publisher.
-NY Times

Synopsis

“It takes true brilliance to lift the arid tellings of lexicographic fussing into the readable realm of the thriller and the bodice-ripper….David Skinner has done precisely this, taking a fine story and honing it to popular perfection.”
—Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman

The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner is the captivating true chronicle of the creation of Merriam Webster’s Third New International Dictionary in 1961, the most controversial dictionary ever published. Skinner’s surprising and engaging, erudite and witty account will enthrall fans of Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, and The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs, as it explores a culture in transition and the brilliant, colorful individuals behind it. The Story of Ain’t is a smart, often outrageous, and altogether remarkable tale of how egos, infighting, and controversy shaped one of America’s most authoritative language texts, sparking a furious language debate that the late, great author David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) once called “the Fort Sumter of the Usage Wars.” 

 

About David Skinner

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David Skinner is a writer and editor living in Alexandria, Virginia. He writes about language, culture, and his life as a husband, father, and suburbanite. He has been a staff editor at the Weekly Standard, for which he still writes, and the editor of Doublethink magazine. Currently he is the editor of Humanities magazine, which is published by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New Atlantis, Slate, the Washington Times, the American Spectator, and many other publications. And he is on the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
 
Published October 9, 2012 by Harper. 370 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Story of Ain't
All: 4 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Patricia T. O’conner on Nov 02 2012

His account, while thorough, jumps back and forth between developments in Springfield and what’s happening in the careers of the naysayers.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Oct 24 2012

...it’s a pity that his book ends where the Third did: eclipsed by plans announced in 1964 for an American Heritage Dictionary, after American Heritage took over Webster’s publisher.

Read Full Review of The Story of Ain't: America, ... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by James Kelly on Oct 05 2012

Mr. Skinner does a fine job detailing the controversy that greeted Webster's Third, but he is even stronger when describing the internal politics at Merriam and the mechanics of revising a dictionary.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Diane Brandley on Oct 09 2012

...Mr. Skinner weaves a true tale fascinating not just to linguists and lexicographers, but to anyone interested in the evolution of our language during a critical period in America’s History.

Read Full Review of The Story of Ain't: America, ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

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67%

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