The Father of the American Language

George Bernard Shaw famously observed that the English and Americans were two nations divided by a common language.  American and English usage began to diverge, no doubt, shortly after the first colonists set foot in Virginia, but it was Noah Webster who helped systematize the divisions between English English and American English.

Born on October 16, 1858 in Hartford Connecticut, he attended Yale during the American Revolution while serving in the Connecticut militia.  Like most of his contemporaries who fought for independence, he remained an ardent patriot to the end of his days.  Webster supported himself by teaching school.  He earned a law degree in 1781, but did not begin to practice law until 1789.  He swiftly realized that the law was not to his liking.  With a loan from Alexander Hamilton he moved to New York and began editing a Federalist newspaper in 1793.  In December of that year he founded New York’s first daily newspaper the American Minerva.  He and his family, eventually he and his wife Rebecca would have nine children, moved to New Haven in 1798, where he embarked on a highly successful career as perhaps the most prolific author in American history.

In the 1780s he had published A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, which was to be used to teach English.  This book would go through 385 editions during Webster’s life.  Over the years an astounding one  hundred million copies of the work was sold.  Illegal knockoffs of his book caused Webster to successfully champion the Federal copyright law passed in 1790. (more…)

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 5:38 am  Comments Off on The Father of the American Language