John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Beneath the dignity of a great nation

A little earlier today I allowed myself an indulgence of mock anger about the pleonasm safe haven. But this evening I discover an actual rage building to Category 5 levels. The reason can be found in another post earlier today, that the Dictionary of American Regional English is in danger of going out of business.

We, who used to think of ourselves as a great and puissant nation, find ourselves unable to come up with the ready for the continuation of a long-running academic project that establishes something central about our greatness as a nation: the richness of our language. 

There are locutions in DARE that Mark Twain would have recognized. There is language that I recognize from my people in rural Kentucky. My people come from people who never exercised much in the way of political power or wealth or cultural influence, but who had the right of the humble to add to the fabric of the national language. And it is the Dictionary of American Regional English, through the dedication of generations of volunteers and scholars, that gave them the dignity of recording their contributions.

Now we find that Joan Houston Hall, heir to Fred Cassidy and the other members of the American Dialect Society who started this project, is reduced to begging for small change to keep at least a part of the operation functioning. 

We see every day people wearing American flag lapel pins and prating about their patriotism. A true and sincere patriotism, one that properly understood who we are and where we came from and why it is important to know this, would not allow the lights to go dark at DARE.

No comments:

Post a Comment