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Clark College News and Events

September 28, 2006
For Immediate Release
For additional information:
Marti Earhart, Clark College Bookstore
Telephone: 360-992-2261

'dik-shə-ner’-ee 'bī-sen-'te-nee-əl

On October 17, Clark College will welcome
the publisher of Merriam-Webster
to mark the bicentennial of America’s first dictionary

VANCOUVER, Wash. – You can find the print version in backpacks and bookcases.  You can see the online version on computer screens and PDAs.  It’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and it is marking its 200th anniversary.  Merriam-Webster president and publisher John Morse

To celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of this first truly “Americanized” dictionary, Clark College will welcome Merriam-Webster’s president and publisher John M. Morse on Tuesday, October 17 in the Gaiser Hall Student Center from noon to 1 p.m. for a lively discussion entitled Dictionaries and Democracy: 200 Years of Dictionary Making in America.

Gaiser Hall is located on the northwest corner of Clark College’s main campus on Fort Vancouver Way between E. McLoughlin Blvd. and E. Fourth Plain Blvd.  For additional information about the event, which is free and open to the public, contact Marti Earhart at 360-992-2261.

Two hundred years ago the company’s namesake Noah Webster created A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language—the very first dictionary to reflect the unique culture and vocabulary of the American people. Along with introducing a reform from British spelling (colour to color; musick to music), the volume included thousands of words (chowder, hickory, skunk) which were in daily use in America, but not listed in any other lexicon.

Morse’s  presentation will focus on how Noah Webster and his successors — the brothers George and Charles Merriam — continued throughout the nineteenth century to maintain the first American dictionary’s status as the “quintessential democratic document.”  Morse will also touch upon how Webster’s legacy still resonates in the twenty-first century through electronic and online language publishing.

“The same convictions that inspired Webster to create the first American dictionary,” says Morse, “continue to motivate Merriam-Webster’s lexicographers to this day. What has changed considerably, of course, is the ever-evolving English language itself, and the method we now have to access that wealth of information. Merriam-Webster now has a fully searchable electronic database containing over 60 million words—a vast body of knowledge which allows us to study language in ways Noah Webster never dreamed of.”

Beginning his tenure at Merriam-Webster in 1980, John Morse’s responsibilities as president and publisher now include all company operations. He continues to beactively involved in the company’s editorial process, including the creation of the best-selling Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. A distinguished scholar and engaging speaker, Morse has brought his expertise and love of language to a wide range of regional and local forums throughout the country.  He has been seen and heard on a variety of radio and television programs including NPR’s Morning Edition, CNBC’s Power Lunch, and C-SPAN’s BookTV.


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