Wednesday, January 11, 2012

“Evening after evening, weekend after weekend, holiday after holiday”

Edward Artin went to work at G. & C. Merriam in 1930. He began as a proofreader, later joined the pronunciation staff, and worked on Webster’s Third New International Dictionary:

It was the inadequacy of the historical files and a lack of confidence in the research underlying some of the Second Edition pronunciations that led Artin to embark on his extraordinary effort to record as completely and systematically as he could the actual pronunciations prevailing in different parts of the country and different English-speaking nations from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Extraordinary indeed:

His wife Dorothy L. Artin, an editorial assistant for the Second Edition, recalls that “we were married in 1931, and I soon learned that much, indeed most, of our ‘free’ time was to be dedicated” to his consuming interest in how people pronounce words. “During the ensuing forty-three years … evening after evening, weekend after weekend, holiday after holiday, he listened to representative speakers, on radio, television, or face-to-face, all the while making … citations on three-by-five slips.”

Herbert C. Morton, The Story of Webster’s Third: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Morton’s book is a great introduction to the world of lexicography.

[“Evening after evening, weekend after weekend, holiday after holiday”: What tone do you hear in this phrasing? Amused tolerance, or disbelief?]

comments: 1

Elaine said...

Oh, I'm guessed 'amused tolerance,' since (a) they stayed married, and (b) she didn't murder him (apparently.)

I've had much the same thought about my decision to buy a Victrola phonograph and some old 78's, thus encouraging my DHubby to take up a hobby. (We have at least one 'antique music' machine in every room, and our record collection is in the range of a couple thousand...Twenty-three years and counting, day after day, week after week, holiday after holiday...)