Nobody's Perfect Dept.

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Dec 19 19:50:11 UTC 2006

One of the reasons that I welcome people such as Mr. Mullins is that I am a 
teacher, and I feel that I gain real insight into the way 
nonspecialists--which, after all, is what my students are--view the issues and concepts of my 
profession. The questions such folks aske, and the way they view things, mirror my 
students, though the students often are afraid to stick their necks out. I 
suspect that the dictionary makers are similarly grateful for the insignts that 
they can glean here from intelligent and enthusiastic customers.

I hope that that does not sound patronizing. I am well aware that the first 
linguists were nonspecialists, and that the field was invented by people with a 
passion for the subject but less insight thatn we have--I hope--in the c250 
years since Johnson's dictionary was first published.

The few people who qualify as genuine cranks can easily ber ignored by 
mashing the DELETE button. I admit that that is sometimes hard to do, but once one 
realizes the sort of message that generally comes from those few, one knows 
that NOt mashing the DELETE button will simply (very likely) be a cause of 

So, I mash.

But I never mash Mr. Mullins' mild-mannered messages (yes, I am aware that 
this line echoes one first written by Wallace Stevens).

In a message dated 12/19/06 2:36:51 PM, Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL writes:

> As a layperson on this (very non-lay) list, I have to say that I have
> been treated with respect and courtesy, beyond what I deserve.  My
> background is electrical engineering and I do the word hunting for fun.
> Scholars such as Gerry Cohen, Jon Lighter, Jesse Sheidlower, Ben Zimmer,
> the staff of the OED, and others have been more than kind to me, and
> have made me feel part of a community that I really have no claim to be
> a member of.
> It's only common sense, however, that part of the reason for the
> collegiality I have been given is that I constantly bear in mind that
> what I can bring to the table is simply a desire to look things up, and
> the willingness to spend the time and effort to do so.  I have no
> illusions that I have something profound to say to people who have
> studied a subject for their adult lives, while it has been but a
> sideline interest of mine for a few years.  And I certainly wouldn't
> presume to tell people who write dictionaries that they should use a
> different system of spelling.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list