Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 09:33:19 EST


Subject: Openness

Let's not bite the hand that extends itself to us in friendship.

For decades, members of ADS have worried that there aren't enough of us.

Membership has been a little over 500 for the past 20 years, and before that

it was even lower. That's not enough to conduct all the important research

that needs to be done; not even enough to make a full program for all of our

meetings. As we grow older, some of us wonder whether there will be much of a

new generation to take our place.

We also worry that our important discoveries don't get enough attention. We're

reconsidering the publication arrangements for our two journals because they

reach such a limited audience. We lament that "usageasters" (to use Tom

Creswell's word) ignore our findings about actual usage; we despair at

mistaken popular notions about American dialects (well, dInIs doesn't despair,

he studies them) and the origins of "hot dog" or "Big Apple."

And we worry about funding for our research. We need to convince people

outside our field that we deserve money for great surveys of vocabulary like

the Dictionary of American Regional English, of pronunciation like the

Phonological Atlas of North America, or of everything in a region like LAGS

and LAMSAS, as well as for our individual endeavors. We also need to convince

deans and department heads of the importance of time and money for our


Do we refuse to let non-majors into the courses we teach? Do we speak and

write only for our learned peers, refusing to offer talks to the general

public or articles to newspapers and magazines? If so, then we have only

ourselves to blame that no one else cares or listens.

But instead . . .

If on ADS-L we often need to point out that DARE has the answer: what an

affirmation of the value of the millions of public and private money spent on

it, and what a useful reminder of the value of turning to that book for


If we have to remind others that an important article on a particular topic

recently appeared in American Speech,

that's a useful reminder of the value of consulting it regularly, and of

belonging to ADS in order to get it.

And if we have to explain basic concepts and facts to outsiders - well, most

of the population consists of outsiders to our field. If we can talk only to

ourselves, we're pretty lonely. Besides, some of the most important advances

in a field come from attempts to explain and justify it to the rest of the

world. We can't sit on our laurels but must rethink what we do.

Some of the most active people in our field are not on the list, or drop off

from time to time. That's fine. We all have to closet ourselves now and then

to get our work done. But when we do participate in the list, and when we open

it to all who are interested, I think we perform an important service to our

field too.

- Allan Metcalf