personal comments on Allen Walker Read (LONG)

Sat Oct 19 13:17:04 UTC 2002

I would like to join Frank in his classical farewell "Ave atque vale" to
Allen Walker Read. I am sure "senatus populusque romanus" join us. I did not
have a chance to know Allen so well as Frank and others closer to New York
did, but I will get a copy of the new compendium of his papers and writings.
Allen had done me the honour of being one of the first to purchase a copy of
my magnum opus in 1985. A small and quite solid work that I treasure is his
_Classic  American Graffiti_  ("Naturalia non sunt turpia") which I often
use to regale friends and visitors innocent of linguistics and
lexicography.with. Allen Walker Read was a giant in his field. When shall we
see his like again?

tom paikeday

----- Original Message -----
From: "Frank Abate" <abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET>
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2002 6:50 AM
Subject: personal comments on Allen Walker Read (LONG)

> Replying to Grant Barrett's request for personal comments on Allen Walker
> Read:
> I knew of him before I first met him, as he was a mentor (at Columbia) of
> Larry Urdang.  Larry always spoke of him in the most glowing terms.  Then
> the DSNA in Ann Arbor in 1985 I had the pleasure of meeting him, as we
> both on our way to a paper.  We had a pleasant conversation, and he seemed
> happy to hear about Larry and the work we were doing.  I was in awe,
> of what Larry had told me, from the fact that I knew he had written the
> entry on dictionaries for Britannica, and from his record of scholarship.
> For his part, he was as gracious and friendly to me as if I had been an
> acquaintance.  Allen was "just folks".
> Over the years I ran into him again at various meetings, or heard him
> deliver papers, even if I did not have a chance to actually say hello.  As
> for his papers, he had an inimitable style.  His delivery was fairly dry,
> but every once in a while he would throw in a zinger, and coming from that
> sort of style, it was even funnier than otherwise.  His papers were also
> very clear and pointed, and backed by full evidence.  He would deliver a
> paper from a set of large index cards, onto which he taped clippings he
> going to use, with his own comments scribbled around them on the cards.
> worked.  I was so impressed by the eminent practicality of this approach
> that I have tried to adopt it myself, though I will never be in Allen's
> league as regards delivering a paper.
> One particularly memorable paper Allen gave was at an ADS meeting in NYC
> year, where he was invited to give a special address.  He re-read as a
> a story he had written about his waiting to receive his degree from an
> Oxford college.  He had written this shortly after he took his degree at
> Oxford, in the late 20s, I believe.  The story won an award at the time he
> first published it.  To hear him read it was a great pleasure.  The room
> ADS was packed, and dead silent throughout, except for several
> of laughter at the funny lines.  This is one of the best paper experiences
> can recall, and I expect others who were there would agree.
> That paper at ADS, as well as many others Allen wrote over the years, are
> now published in the volume just completed by ADS, edited by Richard
> and prepared for the printer by Charles Carson.  If you don't have this
> book, get it.  Many of Allen's papers here collected had never been in
> before.
> It is worth noting that Allen is cited in the **very first** footnote of
> in Mencken's groundbreaking study _The American Language_; see p. 3.  The
> paper cited was published in 1933.  That is by no means his earliest
> however, and he continued to produce papers until just a few years ago.
> Some 70+ years of scholarship from one man -- what an astounding legacy of
> work!
> Finally, I had the enormous privilege of visiting the Reads at their
> apartment near Columbia, about two years ago.  I was invited along by Dick
> Bailey, who was in NYC for a conference, and was going to visit the Reads
> discuss the work (ongoing then, now complete) on two collections of
> papers, one on American names and the other on American language (noted
> above).  At this meeting, I was able to see the enormous amount of
> material Allen and Charlotte had in their apartment (which they had been
> since the late 1940s), basically the raw materials for scores of papers
> other work over the decades, not to mention what appeared to be thousands
> books.  Charlotte, too (who died a few months back), was a noted scholar,
> and much of the material was hers.  The Reads, who did not know me well at
> all, were very kind.  I was able to take a few photos of them on that day.
> Allen was in poor health, but still flashed that grin.  Also, Allen seemed
> quite proud of his recent listing in "Who's Who in Hell", a collection,
> just out, with brief bio entries on noted folks who had openly expressed
> utter rejection of various forms of spiritualism and religion.
> [aside to Grant -- can you post photos?  I have several of them scanned,
> can send files in the format you require.]
> There might be more if I think further, but those are the high points that
> come to mind.
> Ave atque vale, AWR.
> Frank Abate

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