Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Provost Professor, English

  • adamsmp@indiana.edu
  • (812) 855-9532
  • Ballantine Hall 475
  • Office Hours
    M-F
    By Appointment Only

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1988

About

I am foremost a historian of English language, especially of English words, who also specializes in the history, theory, and practice of lexicography. Studying the history of language requires familiarity with a wide variety of texts, spread over time, space, and type. In my case, this includes not only traditional literary genres but popular genres, like graphic novels, television, and film, as well as “new media,” like Web texts, text messaging, etc.

I have had the good fortune to work on various dictionary projects, including the Middle English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4/e). I was a contributing editor to both the Barnhart Dictionary Companion (Merriam-Webster, 1999-2001) and Word Mysteries and Histories: From Abracadabra to Zeus (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). For several years, I was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, and, for a decade, I was editor of the quarterly journal American Speech. I am currently working on a suite of books about historical dictionaries, including one on the Dictionary of American English — unexpectedly used to symbolize Anglo-American cooperation on the eve of World War II — the Dictionary of American Regional English —significantly innovative as both dialectology and lexicography — and the Middle English Dictionary, in which linguistic constraints confronted lexicographers, whose solutions to them determined the purpose, structure, and design of the eventual dictionary.

Lexicography, in all its aspects, is a deeply rooted, ongoing professional interest of mine, but I have other equally strong scholarly interests, especially slang and jargon. Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon (2003) is a good example of my work in this field; more recently, I have written a general account, titled Slang: The People's Poetry (2009); and my newest book is In Praise of Profanity (2016). Slowly but surely, I’m working on a historical glossary of restaurant jargon, tentatively called The Server's Lexicon.

Journal Articles and Other Publications

Special Issues of Journals:
  • Editor, DARE From Now On. Special issue of American Speech 88.3 (Fall 2013) on the Dictionary of American Regional English
  • Guest Editor, Beyond Slayer Slang: Pragmatics, Discourse, and Style in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Special issue of Slayage: The On-Line International Journal of Buffy Studies 20 (May 2006)
  • Co-Editor (with Anne Curzan), Teaching American English. Special issue of Journal of English Linguistics 30.4 (December 2002)
  • Editor, The Middle English Dictionary and Historical Lexicography. Special issue Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 23 (2002)
Selected Articles:
  • "Ragnarøk: An Elegy," Names: A Journal of Onomastics (2016)
  • "Language Ideologies and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Evidence from Motive, Structure, and Design," Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America (2015)
  • "'The Course of a Particular’: Names and Narrative in the Works of Joseph Mitchell," Names: A Journal of Onomastics (2015)
  • "Slang and New Media: A Case Study," in Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives, edited by Julie Coleman (Routledge, 2014)
  • "Vocabulary Analysis in Sociolinguistic Research," in Research Methods in Sociolinguistics: A Practical Guide, edited by Janet Holmes and Kirk Hazen (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014)
  • "How Mitford Mathews Got Interested in Dialect Words," American Speech (2014)
  • "The Dictionary Society of North America: A History of the Early Years (Part I)," Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America (2014)
  • Review of Susan Rennie, Jamieson’s Dictionary of Scots: The Story of the First Historical Dictionary of the Scots Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and Iseabail Macleod and J. Derrick McClure, eds., Scotland in Definition: A History of Scottish Dictionaries (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2012), in Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America