Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

Enjoy the riffle of onionskin as dictionary days are upon us

Joan Houston Hall, editor in chief of the Dictionary of American Regional English, answers questions for David Medaris of The Daily Page in preparation for the Wisconsin Book Festival October 10-14, 2007.

What question has nobody ever asked you about DARE that you most wish someone would ask, and how would you answer it?

“How is it that you’re making such swift progress? The Oxford English Dictionary took much longer.” I would probably have to pick up my teeth from the ground before crying, “Oh, thank you for understanding what it takes to create a work like this!”

By the way, there are two dictionary-related holidays coming up. One is October 10, Frederic G. Cassidy Day, which the staff of DARE and others will be celebrating at the book festival. As Joan discusses in the article above, Fred was the long-time chief editor of DARE and he would have turned 100 on that day. An official proclamation was approved last year proclaiming that the official way to celebrate Frederic G. Cassidy day is to toss back a shot of rum (Jamaican, if you have it, since Fred was Jamaican) and shout “On to Zee!”

Also, October 16 is Dictionary Day, celebrating the birth of Noah Webster, who would have been 249 this year. The proper way to celebrate that is to stand on street corners reading your favorite dictionary entries to passersby. Lexicographers no longer carry out the airing of grievances: too many people were hurt by being whacked up side the head with Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

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Grant Barrett