I keep forgetting to post the NY Times obit (by Bruce Weber) of lexicographer Laurence Urdang. He was the managing editor of the first edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, which is the first dictionary I remember being awestruck by (I had not yet experienced the glory that is the OED): it was huge and readable and had great etymologies. He was also the founding editor of Verbatim, a quarterly newsletter on language that I had the pleasure of copyediting for a while. And he was a man after my own heart:
Mr. Urdang graduated from Columbia and did graduate work there in linguistics, studying Russian, German, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Polish. He was a lecturer in linguistics at New York University from 1956 to 1961, and his first job in publishing was as an associate editor in the dictionary department at Funk & Wagnalls. He never did complete a graduate degree, however, stopping short of his dissertation.
“He always said he considered the Random House dictionary his dissertation,” Nicole Urdang said.
I hereby proclaim Languagehat my dissertation. (You can read Ben Zimmer’s remembrance of Urdang here.)
The obit ends with this quote from his introduction to one of his books, which makes for a nice impromptu vocabulary test: “This is not a succedaneum for satisfying the nympholepsy of nullifidians. Rather it is hoped that the haecceity of this enchiridion of arcane and recondite sesquipedalian items will appeal to the oniomania of an eximious Gemeinschaft whose legerity and sophrosyne, whose Sprachgefühl and orexis will find more than fugacious fulfillment among its felicific pages.”