The politics of dictionaries

""People have been fomenting for an English academy, a ruling body that shapes the language and decides what's official and what's not, since the early eighteenth century. 

Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift were the key movers: both felt that English needed to be cleansed of impurities, polished, and subsequently policed. Nothing new would get in unless the academy gave the new coin­age its imprimatur. "

""The call for an academy of English fizzled, though there are still stragglers to the game, either crying out for its creation or volun­teering to be that academy. In its absence, though, people who yearn for definitive guidance have created something similar: The Ameri­can Heritage Dictionary's Usage Panel."


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