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October 13, 2008

An Ode to Noah Webster - From Brand Name to Genericide Victim

Oh noble Noah, you who stripped the u
From color and the k from music and who
Taught a nation how to spell and gave
Us a lexicon of the language of the brave
Rejoice! For Yankees all still celebrate
Your dictionary and your birth upon this date.

Webster.pngThis little composition might not quite fit Noah Webster's 1828 definition of an ode, which attributes "sublimity, rapture and quickness of transition" to the form. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to offer some tribute to the man who created the first dictionary of the American language in all its colorful idiom as the 250th anniversary of his birth approaches.

1828_small.pngWhile every naming company relies on many dictionaries for inspiration, Webster's is particularly appropriate, because his name has become synonymous with dictionaries. This is in great part because the Merriam company, which bought the rights to Noah Webster's dictionary after his death, lost control of both the "Webster's" name and the original 1828 text.

As a result, several other publishers also produce "Webster's" dictionaries and Merriam-Webster has to work hard to establish its claim to being the real Webster's.

That may just make Noah Webster America's first victim of genericide.

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Posted by Diane Prange at October 13, 2008 9:48 AM
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