Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Allan A. Metcalf  

Pen Name: Allan Metcalf


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1940 in Clayton, Missouri

-- Website --
-- Allan A. Metcalf on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Allan Metcalf grew up in Chicago's Hyde Park.

Biographical and Professional Information

Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. He earned a B.A. from Cornell University and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1981, Metcalf has been executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, a national scholarly association for the study of American English, past and present.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Poetic diction in the Old English meters of Boethius (De proprietatibus litterarum)
ISBN: B0006C555C

Mouton. 1973

Language in Education: Theory and Practice Chicano English
ISBN: 0872811077

Center for Applied Linguistics. 1979

Writing to the Point, Sixth Edition
ISBN: 0974407194

Birch Grove Publishing. 2008

An every-day writing method for people who need to think and write quickly -- in the classroom, on the job, at test-taking times, in life itself -- which always works, and which generations of students have been grateful for having mastered.

An Index by Region, Usage, and Etymology to the Sictionary of American regional English, Vol. 1 & 2 (PUBLICATION OF THE AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY)
ISBN: 0817306943

Univ of Alabama Pr. 1993

Duke University Press publishes the index to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). DARE, which William Safire has called the most exciting linguistic project going on in the United States, documents the English language as it has been spoken for more than three hundred years. The index organizes words according to region, usage, and etymology and is an essential companion to DARE.

Research to the Point
ISBN: 0155014811

Harcourt College Pub. 1994

For courses arranged around or including the preparation of the traditional research paper, Research to the Point introduces students to the essence of research: forming a hypothesis and finding evidence to confirm or deny it. Professor Metcalf postulates that unity and coherence come from a single sentence (the hypothesis) that is tested by printed and electronic sources and is thereby developed into the thesis of a documented research paper. Students are introduced, through Research to the Point, to the information available through library and other sources, including the Internet, but the books' focus is always on relating these resources to the student's own hypothesis. Features: * Opening chapter provides a complete summary of coverage, providing a preview that is complemented by a summary at the beginning of each chapter and a detailed index. * MLA documentation is introduced in principle and in three basic forms, avoiding the typical labored approach by saving details for an appendix. * Focus on the hypothesis from beginning to end involves students' critical thinking skills as they work toward a final thesis. * End-of-chapter assignments lead students from hypothesis to final research paper. New to this edition: * Chapter 9, Surfing the Information Superhighway, provides up-to-date coverage of electronic databases and the distinctive ways of investigating them, such as full-text searches and combinations of key terms. * Improved organizatio now riefly introduces documentation at the beginning of research coverage, saving the full exposition of documentation until directly before the final paper assignment. * Expanded guidelines for evaluating sources involve students as critical thinkers in choosing information.

Essentials of Writing to the Point
ISBN: 0155017098

Harcourt College Pub. 1999

America In So Many Words Pa
ISBN: 0618002707

Reference. 1999

This book presents a unique historical view of American English. It chronicles year by year the contributions Americans have made to the vocabulary of English and the words Americans have embraced through the evolution of the nation. For important years from the settlement of Jamestown until 1750, and for every year from 1750 through 1998, a prominent word is analyzed and discussed in its historical context. The result is a fascinating survey of American linguistic culture through past centuries. The authors -- both lifelong students of American English -- bring great depth of understanding to these key words that have made America, and American English, what they are today.

The World in So Many Words: A Country-by-Country Tour of Words That Have Shaped Our Language
ISBN: 0395959209

Houghton Mifflin. 1999

An international tour of words that have shaped the English language explores the etymology of words such as paradise, siesta, geyser, justice, tattoo, and zombie, revealing their often fascinating origins in foreign cultures.

How We Talk: American Regional English Today
ISBN: 0618043624

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2000

Where are you when people • go to the coast instead of the beach • tote things as well as carry them • wait on line instead of in line • get groceries in a paper sack instead of a paper bag • say things like “The baby needs picked up” and “The car needs washed” • eat solid rectangular doughnuts that are also called beignets • complain when something is spendy (“costly”) • are chilled by a blue norther • ask for tonic instead of soda • go “dahntahn” to shop.

Allan Metcalf answers these and many other fascinating questions in his new book, How We Talk: American Regional English Today. In short, delightful essays, Metcalf explains the key features that make American speech so expressive and distinct. He begins in the South, home of the most easily recognized of American dialects, and travels north to New England, then on to the Midwest and the far West, even to Alaska and Hawaii. It’s all here: the northern Midwest “Fargo” accent, Louisiana Cajun and New Orleans Yat, dropped r’s as in Boston’s “Hahvahd Yahd,” and intrusive r’s as in “Warshington,” especially common in America’s midlands. With additional chapters on ethnic dialects and dialects in the movies, Metcalf reveals the resplendence of one our nation’s greatest natural resources — its endless and varied talk.

Predicting New Words
ISBN: 061813008X

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2004

Have you ever aspired to gain linguistic immortality by making up a word? Many people — such famous writers as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Dr. Seuss, along with many lesser-knowns — have coined new words that have endured. But most of the new words people put forward fail to find favor. Why are some new words adopted, while others are ignored? Allan Metcalf explores this question in his fascinating look at new-word creation.
In surveying past coinages and proposed new words, Metcalf discerns lessons for linguistic longevity. He shows us, for instance, why the humorist Gelett Burgess succeeded in contributing the words blurb and bromide to the language but failed to win anyone over to bleesh or diabob. Metcalf examines terms invented to describe political causes and social phenomena (silent majority, Gen-X), terms coined in books (edge city, Catch-22), brand names and words derived from them (aspirin, Ping-Pong), and words that derive from misunderstandings (cherry, kudo). He develops a scale for predicting the success of newly coined words and uses it to foretell which emerging words will outlast the twenty-first century. In this highly original work, Metcalf shows us how to spin syllabic straw into linguistic gold.

Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush
ISBN: 0618443746

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2004

Perhaps more than anyone else, politicians are what they say — and how they say it. In Presidential Voices, Metcalf examines both how the presidents have spoken to the American public and how the American public has wanted its presidents to speak.
Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Metcalf shows what contemporaries have said about the chief speakers in the White House. He explores the distinctive words that our presidents favored (and in many cases coined), along with the regional accents that livened the Oval Office. In addition, he uncovers the hidden influence of speechwriters and the changing media on how presidents present themselves to voters. He concludes his survey of presidential speech with entertaining linguistic portraits of all forty-three presidents.
From Silent Cal to the Great Communicator, Presidential Voices sheds new and original light on the ways in which our commanders in chief have commanded the language. After reading this book, you will never again take what our president says for granted.

OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word
ISBN: 0195377931

Oxford University Press. 2010

It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke. It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is "OK"--the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countless times every day. Yet few of us know the hidden history of OK--how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence.

Allan Metcalf, a renowned popular writer on language, here traces the evolution of America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colorful portraits of the nooks and crannies in which OK survived and prospered. He describes how OK was born as a lame joke in a newspaper article in 1839--used as a supposedly humorous abbreviation for "oll korrect" (ie, "all correct")--but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do. But OK was swept along in a nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidential campaign (one of the candidates being called "Old Kinderhook"), and finally was picked up by operators of the telegraph. Over the next century and a half, it established a firm toehold in the American lexicon, and eventually became embedded in pop culture, from the "I'm OK, You're OK" of 1970's transactional analysis, to Ned Flanders' absurd "Okeley Dokeley!" Indeed, OK became emblematic of a uniquely American attitude, and is one of our most successful global exports.

"An appealing and informative history of OK."
--Washington Post Book World

"After reading Metcalf's book, it's easy to accept his claim that OK is 'America's greatest word.'"
--Erin McKean, Boston Globe

"Entertaininga treat for logophiles."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Metcalf makes you acutely aware of how ubiquitous and vital the word has become."
--Jeremy McCarter, Newsweek



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