October 26, 2010

Who's this Miriam Webster?

I'm a fan of the HBO show "In Treatment." In today's episode, Jesse, a 17-year old with, let's say, identity issues (he wore a T-shirt with the slogan "Hurt me, I'm a virgin"), tries to impress his therapist with a new word he has learned (bifurcated). To no effect. Later, the therapist mentions Merriam-Webster, which Jesse, in a perfect eggcorn, constructs as "Miriam Webster." He asks the therapist who this Miriam woman is. Off the cuff, Weston gives a brief account of Noah Webster and the Merriam brothers, Charles and George (he even knows their given names).

George and Charles Merriam founded a publishing house in Massachusetts in 1831. In 1843 they bought the rights to the current edition of Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language as well as the right to publish future editions. They published the dictionary at a lower price and made it a financial success. The company was later renamed Merriam Webster Inc.

Perhaps this is common knowledge among psychotherapists?

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