Reviews — From the November 2012 issue

The Humble Vernacular

A word-of-mouth dictionary

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Discussed in this essay: The Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume V: Sl–Z, edited by Joan Houston Hall. Harvard University Press. 1,296 pages. $85. hup.harvard.edu. The Life of Slang, by Julie Coleman. Oxford University Press. 352 pages. $27.95. oup.com. The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published, by David Skinner. HarperCollins. 368 pages. $26.99. harpercollins.com. The word lint comes from the word linen, which in turn derives from Old English l?n, meaning “flax.” Linen is spun flax; the byproduct of the spinning process (often, apparently, used for kindling) is the lint. Somehow lint came …

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teaches at Wellesley College. His fifth book, Bicentennial: Poems and Plays, is forthcoming from Knopf.

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