September 16, 2012

The Story of Ain't

cover image of The Story of Ain't
America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published
David Skinner

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary was published in 1961. Assembled at a cost of a half a million dollars, the dictionary embraced informal English words like cool (from jazz), snafu (from World War II), and ain’t. By refusing to distinguish good language from bad, editor Philip Grove broke with tradition and created “the single greatest language controversy in American history,” writes author David Skinner. The Story of Ain't is a compelling reminder of the cultural significance of words and word-making for fans of Bill Bryson’s Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States (1994).