Book Review: “The Story of Ain’t” by David Skinner

The evolution of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

David Skinner’s The Story of Ain’t:
America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever
tells how, in 1961, Webster’s Third New International
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 and on Twitter @johnwilwol.

This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.



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