Lexik House

Class Presentations on the American Language

Lexik House Publishers
P.O. Box 2018
Hyde Park, New York 12538-0718
Telephone: (845) 489-0333

Thomas Jefferson never had a Teddy bear!

Teddy bear did not appear until 1906. Our vibrant language did not spring up fully-grown when the English landed at Roanoke and Plymouth Rock. American English has been a simmering linguistic stew flavored with expressions from many languages of the New World and the Old. It has borrowed heavily from the languages of Native American Indians as well as the speech of German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and other immigrants. The advent of the United States of America, its expansion westward, and the Industrial Revolution, all prodded Americans to coin new terms and bend the meaning of established vocabulary. Thomas Jefferson observed this process in 1813: "Necessity obliges us to neologize." Interesting word pedigrees include: bulldozer, iron curtain, O.K., and keep the ball rolling. Did you know that feisty is an Americanism?

English has gathered in new words where it found them. The Dutch in the Hudson Valley added: cookie, cruller and boss. The French in Canada gave us chowder; Germans in Pennsylvania gave us cookbook and hamburger. The Spanish gave us barbecue and breeze. From Japanese comes tycoon and from Chinese chop suey. Banjo and tote are of African origin. What a rich tapestry!

PROGRAMS. . . David K. Barnhart learned the dictionary craft from his father, Clarence L. Barnhart, editor of the Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary series over 30 years ago. David Barnhart is co-author of America In So Many Words: words that have shaped America (Houghton-Mifflin, 1997), editor of The Barnhart Dictionary Companion (Lexik House/ Merriam-Webster, 1982-present), author of Neo-Words (Macmillan, 1991) and frequent guest on "VoxPop" (WAMC Radio, Albany, N.Y.). Barnhart's background includes classroom teaching, dictionary editing, and language research.

Presentations include:

Crullers, Barracks, and Teeter-totters, a discussion of regional dialect using dictionaries, atlases, and chalkboard diagrams to cast a new understanding for students on the history of the North America by using the language of its inhabitants;

Behind Your Dictionary, an overview of the making of dictionaries for general and specialized vocabularies emphasizing the evolution of the craft from quill to computer while coaching the class in making their own dictionary;

English Ainít What It Used to Be, an overview of 30 years of changing English vocabulary enables Barnhart to outline a variety of language styles from slang to formal communication and draw the class into revealing attitudes through choices they make whenever they speak or write.

David Barnhart has appeared at: Brentwood School, Elmsford Middle School, Garrison Union Free School, Haldane School (Cold Spring, NY), Morris High School (Bronx, NY), New York University and University of NevadaLas Vegas. He will chat with children and teachers about the English language.

For more information, contact:

David Barnhart at 914 850-8484 (phone) or barnhart@Lexikhouse.com

return to the Lexik Home Page

©Lexik House
Last updated:February 1, 2006