Erudite Trivia: Who Was Merriam?

If you’re a fan of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, you’ll love this story from Slate last week about how words are selected for the competition.

Among the piquant tidbits: Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is the “bible of the bee.”

We all know who Noah Webster was, of course. But who the heck was Merriam?

As it turns out, George and Charles Merriam had a good eye for intellectual property. They purchased the publishing and revision rights to Webster’s work after the word maven died in 1843.

Too bad they didn’t have better attorneys, though. “Webster” is now in the public domain, and can be used by any dictionary publisher. But don’t bring that up to M-W. I hear they’re a bit atrabilious about the matter.