November 30th, 2006 | Oddments, Other Projects
This is me using the PhotoBooth feature on my new mac. I’m in a motel in Albany, on my way to Bryn Mawr. Thank you all for those excellent computer cable management tips. And thanks for passing along Steve Duin’s book column for the Oregonian, in which he said Fun Home should win the Pulitzer.
It didn’t win one, sadly, but I have received a far, far greater honor I must tell you about. I’ve just been invited to join the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. (I would have used triple exclamation points there, but in my lofty new position of linguistic authority, I feel I should set an example.)
The American Heritage is my absolute favorite dictionary. It’s beautifully designed and has thousands of cool pictures, which I used to refer to constantly in the dark ages before Google Image Search. But the best thing about it is its Usage Notes, which I often read for sport. Here, you can go check one out yourself. Read this fascinating explanation of the problem with the word “deceptively.”
What do members of the Usage Panel do? They get to vote on whether usages like “deceptively simple” are acceptable or unacceptable. I just filled out a ballot consisting of a long list of problematic words. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. But I must confess—although I’m a social liberal, lexicographically I’m a hard line conservative. I will defend the proper pronunciation and spelling of “chaise longue” to the death.
You can check out a list of who else is on the panel here. Though it’s kind of old and a lot of these people are dead. Guess that’s why I got invited. Or maybe they’re trying to balance out Antonin Scalia. Or maybe it was because they spotted that post from last month where I dressed up like Dr. Johnson.