Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 11:03:10 -0600
From: Thomas Creswell creswell[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CROWN.NET
Subject: Re: 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
- Allan Metcalf
I agree with your well-argued sentiments. But I must decline taking
credit for Tom Clark's (the originator of this thread) coinage