David Barnhart ’64 BA (Geo) is a lexicographer: a writer and compiler of dictionaries, who specializes in new words. His most recent dictionary, Barnhart’s
Never-Finished Political Dictionary of the 21st Century, is a compilation of words that have come into usage through the last five U.S. presidential elections. It includes words like “alt-right,” “sanctuary city,” and “Twitter diplomacy.”
While the current volume includes 1,000 entries, Barnhart expects to expand to it four or five times that amount in the coming decades.
He is the author of over ten works dedicated to neologisms that include Neo-Words:
A Dictionary of the Newest and Most Unusual Words of Our Times and America in So Many Words: Words That Shaped America with Allen Metcalf. Barnhart also collaborated with his father, the lexicographer Clarence Barnhart, in the writing of a
quarterly publication: the
Barnhart Dictionary Companion. Some of Barnhart’s dictionaries include: ТРОйКА--The TROIKA Introduction
to Russian Letters and Sounds, a Dictionary of Bahamian English, The Barnhart Dictionary Companion (a quarterly reporting of new words) and The
Dictionary of Gambling & Gaming.
Wordsmithing runs deeps in the Barnhart family. As a high school student, Barnhart wrote his term papers on his father’s work as a dictionary editor, and helped his father and brother (also a lexicographer) compile various editions of the Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary.
He arrived at Syracuse University with the intention of studying linguistics under Sumner Ives, eventually taking every course Ives offered. However, with no major in linguistics then on offer at the University, Barnhart decided to major in geography
after taking “Geography of the U.S.S.R.” with George Cressey. After graduating from Syracuse, Barnhart continued on to NYU and into a successful career of dictionary preparation.
Barnhart says that Syracuse was “the foundation that would stand me in good stead for my graduate studies.” The firm grounding in research and analysis employed in geography gave him the skills to envisage, conduct and present his findings in lexicography.
Barnhart credits Syracuse for planting a “very valuable seed for my education on the way to becoming a lexicographer”. He thanks the faculty at Syracuse especially for imparting a foundation in rigorous research and analysis.