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America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America Paperback – 26 Nov 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade) (26 Nov. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618002707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618002702
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,254,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This highly selective etymological dictionary of more than 300 of "the best and the brightest" American words was compiled by two longtime students of American English--Barnhart, a lexicographer, and Metcalf, a college professor of English. Arrangement is chronological. The words chosen--a representative one for selected years from 1555 (canoe) to 1748 (buck), and one for each year from 1750 to 1998--are discussed in historical context, sometimes updated with contemporary quotations and with additional words similar to or connected to the key word or phrase. For example, the entry sexism and ageism (1969) mentions other -isms, and Watergate (1972) mentions other -gate terms. Black-and-white illustrations accompany some entries. The introduction has a note on sources, which include titles such as The Dictionary of American Regional English, The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and the periodical Barnhart Dictionary Companion, as well as standard English-language dictionaries. The entries are organized into six chapters, from "The English in America: 1497-1750" to "Nearing the Millennium: 1945-1998." Words are assigned to the year in which they were "newly coined or newly prominent." Entries range in length from half a page to just over a whole page. Some examples of entries from the first chapter are turkey (1607), New England (1616), public school (1636), and ice cream (1744). The concluding chapter features rock and roll (1951), fast food (1954), soccer mom (1996), Ebonics (1997), and millennium bug (1998). An index by word brings together all keywords and words discussed in the text, and an index by date lists each year from 1555 and its keyword. Most ofthe words and phrases found here also appear in other dictionaries of American English, but this book puts a new spin on their definitions. It should appeal to both browsers and reference personnel in high-school, public, and academic libraries. It supplements more scholarly works, such as those listed in the source notes in the introduction. Copyright(c) 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The story of the English language in North America begins almost exactly five hundred years ago, on July 24, 1497. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Oor Boaby on 23 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting read into a specific sept of the English language. A thoroughly entertaining and informative book. Delighted!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An Interesting Perspective On US History 26 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book gives the historical background of over three hundred words that are in some way uniquely American-born. Boring, you say? Never! The entries are arranged chronologically and include some words that you might suspect (underground railroad, motel) and quite a few that may surprise you (hello, bathtub, bug). Each entry provides a fascinating look at the people and times that led to the development of the word. An index lets you look up specific words.
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A sleep inducer... 29 Oct. 2003
By J. Guild - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found this book about as exciting as reading last week's weather report.I waded through it but finally gave up a little from the end.Language and the derivation of words and phrases is an interesting and colorful subject;but little was found in this book.There is much more to producing a good book than collecting up a bunch of stuff and sticking it between a couple of covers.Don't waste your "coin" (not covered by the way) as you'll forget what's in it as soon as you read it.
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