One of our lovely and brilliant sales reps, Ms. Briana Ross, recently received an order from an account in Korea. She went to our in-house database to check stock levels and confirm prices for the included titles, but couldn’t find a listing for one of them: Relative Frequency of English Speech Sounds. Could they have included a book that wasn't actually ours? Happens all the time. But, just to be sure, she checked our distributor’s database, and, sure enough, there it was, in database shorthand: RELATIVE FREQ ENGL SPEECH SOUNDS. Published 1950. Stock available.
Recent book world developments have made it more important than ever for publishers to have complete, accurate data on even their oldest titles. Ebooks provide the opportunity to renew wide access to long out-of-print titles. Efforts by Google and others to digitize enormous amounts of books plucked from the world's libraries put the onus on publishers to loudly and accurately plant flags over all of their deep backlists. Given our focus on updating and maintaining our database, a missing record is a pretty rare thing for us these days. So, Briana of course understood that we’d need this title added to our system right away.
She sent a note to our database developer letting him know of the need. He created the record and then, out of curiosity, did a web search for the title. He found it listed via an online seller as Relativ Frequency of English Speech Sounds. “Relativ?” Weird. We hoped they hadn’t gotten that bad data from us.
Once the record was created, we could put the book on our website, a job for me. Wanting a little more information than just the raw data, I hoofed up two flights to our library and found the book, right where it was supposed to be, filed under the name of the author, Godfrey Dewey. Except, on the spine and the title page: Relativ Frequency of English Speech Sounds. “Relativ?” Weird. Publisht Under the Direction of the Graduate School of Education. “Publisht?” What’s happening? I know we’re dusty, but has HUP actually been around longer than spelling?
I skimmed some pages. “The procedure of the fourth stage, analisis by sounds, which required in all about 720 hours, was similar to that above described for the sillable analisis.” Getting weirder.
“Tables 3 and 4 of words in order of frequency ar immediately followed by Tables 5 and 6 of the same words in alfabetic order, also in parallel columns and showing frequencies.” Not even sure this Dewey chap knew the alphabet, let alone its order.
But, finally, an explanation, from the book’s front matter:
And so, ashamed of our prejudice, and ever toward a rational orthografy, we giv you: Relativ Frequency of English Speech Sounds, Second Edition. In print and available.