This paper examines an exchange in the pages of American Speech between Eric Partridge, author of the Dictionary of the Underworld (1949a), David Maurer, its reviewer, and Gershon Legman, whose intervention in the debate appears to have been at Maurer’s behest. This remarkably heated public correspondence identifies differences between these lexicographers’ approaches to their work and their attitudes towards intellectual copyright. This insight into the personalities behind the publications highlights broader conflicts in linguistic thought.\ud Partridge’s approach to lexicography was text-based and historical. He scoured publications from around the world and across the centuries to find examples of the words he was documenting, sometimes without due regard to the reliability of his sources. Maurer was interested in lexis in the context of its use in narrowly defined social sub-groups at a particular moment in time. Maurer felt that any reuse of his painstaking work was an abuse of the relationships of trust he had built up with his informants and of his own intellectual property rights. Partridge argued that as long as due credit was given, no plagiarism and therefore no abuse of copyright had occurred.Peer-reviewedPost-prin
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