Mitford McLeod Matthews was one of America’s preeminent lexicographers: an assistant editor of the Dictionary of American English (1938–44), he later conceived and edited A Dictionary of Americanisms (1951) and was also the author of several books on American English and dictionaries, as well as contributor of 34 installments of a column, “Of Matters Lexicographical,” to this journal, from 1951 through 1959. In this audio feature, Matthews explains how his childhood curiosity about what was going on around him in rural Alabama led to curiosity about the words used to describe those natural and social phenomena. Besides preserving Matthews’s voice—the voice of an adept word-historical raconteur—for the future, the audio feature also illustrates the relationship between Matthews’s early life and his lifelong passion and profession, a passage in the biography of a lexicographer. Interest in dialect, we are reminded, is sometimes homegrown; knowledge of American English often originates at a local scale. In addition to these broader themes, the audio feature contains Matthews’s commentary on particular words and idioms, including ant lion, bull-roarer, cape jessamine, cush, doodle, gungerbread, and Job’s comforter. Because listeners may want some context for it and because Mathews had written about some of the items in question elsewhere, annotations are provide below, referenced by time stamp, and in the online transcript.

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