In The Dictionary Wars, Peter Martin recounts the patriotic fervor in the early American republic to produce a definitive national dictionary that would rival Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language.
“But what began as a cultural war of independence from Britain devolved into a battle among lexicographers, authors, scholars, and publishers, all vying for dictionary supremacy and shattering forever the dream of a unified American language,” said a review in goodreads.com.
“The Dictionary Wars examines the linguistic struggles that underpinned the founding and growth of a nation,” it added.
Critic Patricia T. O’Conner said in a review for The New York Times that Martin’s account of the dictionary feuds of the 19th century “is as lively and entertaining as the battle itself.”
The critic said: “In one corner was Noah Webster; in the other, Joseph Emerson Worcester. Both seasoned lexicographers, they realized that Americans were coining new words, using old ones in new ways and preserving usages the British had dropped.”