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Indiana University Bloomington

Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Email | 812-855-9532


Professor
Editor, American Speech
President Elect, Dictionary Society of North America

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1988
A.M., University of Michigan, 1985
A.B., University of Michigan, 1983

I am foremost a historian of English language, especially of English words, who also specializes in the history, theory, and practice of lexicography. I have had the good fortune to work on various dictionary projects, including the Middle English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4/e). For several years, I was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. I am currently finishing a book focused on the Middle English Dictionary and techniques of historical lexicography, in which I reconstruct the MED's editorial principles and practices and contrast them with those of other historical dictionary projects, like the Oxford English Dictionary, in order to discover what central problems confront ambitious, multi-decade dictionary projects and how solution of those problems sets the purpose and style of the eventual dictionaries.

Lexicography, in all its aspects, is a deeply rooted, ongoing professional interest of mine, but I have other equally strong scholarly interests, especially slang and jargon. Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon (2003) is a good example of my work in this field; most recently, I have written a general account, titled Slang: The People's Poetry (2009). I am currently working on a book about restaurant jargon, tentatively called The Server's Lexicon.

Studying the history of language requires familiarity with a wide variety of texts, spread over time, space, and type. In my case, this includes not only traditional literary genres but popular genres, like graphic novels, television, and film, as well as "new media," like Web texts, text messaging, etc. My interest in Scottish literature extends from fifteenth-century poetry to the modern novel, and I am currently experimenting with linguistic studies of style in works by Neil Gunn and Eric Linklater.

Recent Courses

English G-205: Introduction to the English Language
English G-405: Studies in the English Language: Slang
English L-208: Vampires
English L-213: Literary Masterpieces
English L-680: Reading Dictionaries
English L-780: Conversation, Dialogue and Discourse
English E-301: Literature in English to 1600

Selected Publications (click images for more information)

Books:

How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction to the English Language(with Anne Curzan) How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (3/e, Pearson Longman, 2012) and Instructor's Manual to Accompany How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (3/e, Pearson Longman, 2012)

From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented LanguagesEditor, From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Contours of English and English Language StudiesEditor (with Anne Curzan), Contours of English and English Language Studies (University of Michigan Press, 2011)

Cunning Passages, Contrived CorridorsEditor, "Cunning passages, contrived corridors:" Unexpected Essays in the History of Lexicography (Polimetrica, 2010)

Slang: The People’s PoetrySlang: The People's Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to ZeusContributing Editor, Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer LexiconSlayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Special Issues of Journals:

Guest Editor, Beyond Slayer Slang: Pragmatics, Discourse, and Style in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Special issue of Slayage: The On-Line International Journal of Buffy Studies 20 (May 2006)

Co-Editor (with Anne Curzan), Teaching American English. Special issue of Journal of English Linguistics 30.4 (December 2002)

Editor, The Middle English Dictionary and Historical Lexicography. Special issue Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 23 (2002)

Selected Articles:

"Cratchit: The Etymology," Journal of Literary Onomastics 1 (Spring 2011): 31-52

"Legacies of the Early Modern English Dictionary," in Adventuring in Dictionaries: New Studies in the History of Lexicography, edited by John Considine (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010): 290-308

"Historical Dictionaries and the History of Reading," in Reading in History: New Methodologies from the Anglo-American Tradition, edited by Bonnie Gunzenhauser (Pickering & Chatto, 2010): 47-62 and 143-145

"'Shut Up and Listen': An Interview with Richard W. Bailey," Journal of English Linguistics 37.4 (December 2009): 356-374

"What Samuel Johnson Really Did: He Made Dictionaries Matter," Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities 30.5 (September/October 2009): 8-13

"Power, Politeness, and the Pragmatics of Nicknames," Names: A Journal of Onomastics 57.2 (June 2009): 96-106

"Nicknames, Interpellation, and Dubya's Theory of the State," Names: A Journal of Onomastics 56.4 (December 2008): 206-220

"The Period Dictionaries," in The Oxford History of English Lexicography, 2 volumes, edited by A. P. Cowie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): 1.326-352

"Assimilation of French-Canadian Names into New England Speech: Notes from a Vermont Cemetery," Names: A Journal of Onomastics 56.2 (June 2008): 65-80

"Language," in The Encyclopedia of African American History: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-First Century (1895-2005), 5 volumes, edited by Paul Finkelman and others (Oxford University Press, 2008): 3.130-135

"The Critical Dictionary and the Wiki World," English Today: The International Review of the English Language 90 [23.2] (April 2007): 9-15

"Language: The Development of English among African Americans," in The Encyclopedia of African American History: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass (1619-1895), 3 volumes, edited by Paul Finkelman and others (Oxford University Press, 2006): 2.251-254

"Pennsylvania Speech," in Encyclopedia of Appalachia, edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell (University of Tennessee Press, 2006): 1023-1025

(with Jennifer Westerhaus Adams), "Surnames and American Trademark Law," Names: A Journal of Onomastics 53.4 (December 2005): 259-273

"Lexical Property Rights: Trademarks and American Dictionaries," Verbatim: The Language Quarterly 30.4 (Winter 2005): 1-8

"Articulating the Middle English Lexicon: Margaret Ogden, Medieval Medical Texts, and the Middle English Dictionary," in Women Medievalists in the Academy, edited by Jane Chance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005): 697-710

"DARE, History, and the Texture of the Entry," American Speech 77.4 (Winter 2002): 370-382

"Phantom Dictionaries: The Middle English Dictionary before Kurath," Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 23 (2002): 95-114

"Teaching 'Bad' American English: Profanity and Other 'Bad' Words in the Liberal Arts Setting," Journal of English Linguistics 30.4 (December 2002): 353-365

“Lexical Doppelgängers,” Journal of English Linguistics 28.3 (September 2000): 295-310

“Credit Where It’s Due: Authority and Recognition at the Dictionary of American English,” Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 19 (1998): 1-20

“The Server’s Lexicon: Preliminary Inquiries into Current Restaurant Jargon,” American Speech 73.1 (Spring 1998): 57-83

“Sanford Brown Meech at the Middle English Dictionary,” Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 16 (1995): 151-185