Tuesday, November 1, 2011


In a recent post, I mentioned that in 1960 the suffix -wise “was very much in the air”: the object of lighthearted yet firm rebuke in Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (1959), and a running joke in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960). Looking back at David Skinner’s 2009 article on Webster’s Third New International Dictionary has reminded me that -wise was very much in the air in 1961 too, the year of that dictionary’s publication. As Skinner notes, Life magazine “singled out the ending -wise for condemnation” in its editorial comment on the new dictionary. Google Books has the passage:

[“A Non-Word Deluge.” Life, October 27, 1961.]

Skinner notes that the Third New International labels irregardless as nonstandard and distinguishes enormity from enormousness. He also points out that concretize, finalize, and -wise “were all established enough to have appeared without warning labels in W2 [the second edition of the New International], the very dictionary Life’s editors claimed to know and trust so well.”

A weekly magazine editorializing (even if mistakenly) about an unabridged dictionary: those were heady times.

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