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Indiana University Bloomington

Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Email | 812-855-9532


Provost Professor
Past President, 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. 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.

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). I was a contributing editor to both the Barnhart Dictionary Companion (Merriam-Webster, 1999-2001) and Word Mysteries and Histories: From Abracadabra to Zeus (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). For several years, I was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, and, for a decade, I was editor of the quarterly journal American Speech. I am currently working on a suite of books about historical dictionaries, including one on the Dictionary of American English — unexpectedly used to symbolize Anglo-American cooperation on the eve of World War II — the Dictionary of American Regional English —significantly innovative as both dialectology and lexicography — and the Middle English Dictionary, in which linguistic constraints confronted lexicographers, whose solutions to them determined the purpose, structure, and design of the eventual dictionary.

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; more recently, I have written a general account, titled Slang: The People's Poetry (2009); and my newest book is In Praise of Profanity (2016). Slowly but surely, I’m working on a historical glossary of restaurant jargon, tentatively called The Server's Lexicon.

Curriculum Vitae >>


Recent Courses

English L206: Introduction to Prose (Non-Fiction)
English G208: World Englishes
English L310: Literary History I: Beginnings through the Seventeenth Century
English G405: Studies in the English Language: English and the Culture of Correctness
English W350: Advanced Expository Writing
English G602: Readings in Language, History, and Culture: Reading Dictionaries
English W615: Writing Creative Nonfiction
English L738: Research in Literary Histories and Theories of History: Mistaken Identities — Late Medieval Scottish Poetry and the Problem of English Literature

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 (with Laurel J. Brinton and R. D. Fulk), Studies in the History of the English Language VI: Evidence and Method in Histories of English (De Gruyter Mouton, 2015)

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)

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

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

In Praise of ProfanityIn Praise of Profanity (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Special Issues of Journals:

Editor, DARE From Now On. Special issue of American Speech 88.3 (Fall 2013) on the Dictionary of American Regional English

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:

"Ragnarøk: An Elegy," Names: A Journal of Onomastics (2016)

"Language Ideologies and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Evidence from Motive, Structure, and Design," Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America (2015)

"'The Course of a Particular’: Names and Narrative in the Works of Joseph Mitchell," Names: A Journal of Onomastics (2015)

"Slang and New Media: A Case Study," in Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives, edited by Julie Coleman (Routledge, 2014)

"Vocabulary Analysis in Sociolinguistic Research," in Research Methods in Sociolinguistics: A Practical Guide, edited by Janet Holmes and Kirk Hazen (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014)

"How Mitford Mathews Got Interested in Dialect Words," American Speech (2014)

"The Dictionary Society of North America: A History of the Early Years (Part I)," Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America (2014)

Review of Susan Rennie, Jamieson’s Dictionary of Scots: The Story of the First Historical Dictionary of the Scots Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and Iseabail Macleod and J. Derrick McClure, eds., Scotland in Definition: A History of Scottish Dictionaries (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2012), in Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America