Tribute to Barry Popik for his research on food terminology (UNCLASSIFIED)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jan 30 16:25:04 UTC 2008

FWIW, I didn't get the idea that Barry referred to me as a "complete asshole."

  But if he had, I wouldn't have cared because

  a) that's Barry for ya,
  b) I call ("invoke") the sticks-'n'-stones principle,
  c) it couldn't possibly apply, and
d) it's better than being called a "compleat" asshole.

  If Barry weren't documenting food terms, many would go undocumented, which would be very regrettable. As he's said in the past, it's up to editors to decide what they want to include and why.

  I must however, second the emotion [sic] to keep personal abuse at an absolute minimum here, unless intended to showcase innovative terms of opprobrium.


"Mullins, Bill AMRDEC" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC"
Subject: Re: Tribute to Barry Popik for his research on food terminology

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Let's put this into a little context.

Last Friday morning, Jesse Shieldlower posted an antedating to the term
"Big Apple". As we all know, this term is a particular interest of
Barry Popik. Throughout the morning, postings to the list on the
subject came from Ben Zimmer, Jon Lighter, and Fred Shapiro, discussing
the searches made for it, the database it came from, etc.

Four and a half hours later, Barry Popik made a post to Zimmer, Lighter,
Shapiro, myself and several others in which he referred to these three
as "despicable," and "complete assholes" and he said the ADS treats him
like "a piece of shit". His biggest beef was that rather than sending
the info on an antedating to the ADS, the post should have been sent
directly to him. Apparently anyone who posts to the ADS-L should
realize that "Big Apple" belongs to Barry, and he is the central
clearing house for any research done on it. It was a paranoid rant --
Barry seemed to believe that the three named above were actively
withholding information from him, because he doesn't "check ADS-L
anymore". Information circulated for four and a half hours; this is a
conspiracy against Barry.

If Barry has a beef with Zimmer, Lighter or Shapiro, that's between
Barry and them. But for him to CC others on this was classless. It's
painfully obvious to me that the three above have, many times, been
complimentary of Barry and his research on this listserv.

So after the dust on the issue settled down, Andrew Smith sent the email
below to the twelve people who were recipients of Barry's rant. He
(probably wisely) sidestepped the Big Apple situation, and complimented
Barry's work on food terms. Hell, I'll compliment Barry's work on food
terms. Ben Zimmer, Jon Lighter, and Fred Shapiro have all complimented
Barry's work on food terms. But let's not duck the fact that along with
Barry's very productive work on antedating not only food terms but
slang, city nicknames, New York and Texas phrases and words, and many
other areas of American Dialect, Barry can be incredibly immature,
paranoid, rude, whiny and classless. I've been told he's a nice guy in
person. His online persona is not.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 9:45 PM
> Subject: Tribute to Barry Popik for his research on food terminology

> The note below was sent yesterday by Andrew Smith to Barry
> Popik, with cc.'s to some twelve other people interested in
> word origins and Barry's research. Andrew Smith is the editor
> of the two volume _Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in
> America_, 2004.
> I join him now in regarding Barry's work in this field as
> truly extraordinary.
> Gerald Cohen
> [forwarded message from Andrew Smith]
> From:
> Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008 14:06:41 EST
> To: Bapopik at
> Hi Barry:
> Don't know anything about Big Apples or the ADSL Listserv. I
> do know somethings about food. You've made fantastic
> contributions to the understanding of the origin and
> dissemination of American food terms. I've thanked you in
> prefaces to my books and in person--And permit me to do it
> again: Please keep up the great work!
> You've shamed the rest of us by your solid research and we
> need your continued work in the future.
> Hang in there!
> Andy Smith
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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