David Skinner’s The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published tells how, in 1961, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary broke from the 1934 edition by describing the way people actually spoke. Skinner, former editor of the Weekly Standard, unearths such gems as a story of brevity’s power. Colonel Ira Eaker was a military propagandist promoted to head the US’s World War II bombing effort in Europe. At a dinner, he was asked to say a few words: “Rising reluctantly from his chair, he delivered an address only two sentences long. . . . All he said was this: ‘We won’t do much talking until we’ve done more fighting. After we’ve gone we hope you’ll be glad we came.’ ”
John Wilwol can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @johnwilwol.
This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.