OED on 60 Minutes (Was Re: to suss (Was Re: dwarves etc.))

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at NYU.EDU
Wed Mar 7 20:53:31 UTC 2001

At 03:36 PM 3/7/2001 +0800, you wrote:
>Let that old Mr. Fuddy-Duddy, Jesse's foil on last night's 60 Minutes
>II show, put that in his craw and smoke it.  American slang ruining
>the grand old mother (country) tongue indeed.
>larry [horn]

Yes, I'm surprised not to have heard comments on that here, until now. I
thought that (what I took to be) the thrust of the segment was oddly retro,
i.e., "Gee whiz, isn't it interesting but kind of weird that anyone would
put slang in an important dictionary with such an old-time pedigree!" I
suppose the old grade-school idea dies hard: i.e., that the purpose of
dictionaries is not to document actual usage, "wie es eigentlich gewesen" as
they say, but to teach proper formal usage. Maybe journalists, trained early
on that the crucial thing about language to write serviceable mainstream
prose, have professional reasons for tending to think of dictionaries as
prescriptivistic guidebooks and arbiters of correctness.

Anyway, the report has to have been useful publicity for OED2/3: how else
would it ever have gotten that much free advertising in one fell swoop?

Greg Downing, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at nyu.edu

More information about the Ads-l mailing list