Reviews of The Butter Lamb News

Wonder what others have said about The Butter Lamb News? Here are some reviews!


Not in bulky, dusty tomes, but in diminutive zine form, Joseph Smith presents The Butter Lamb News, “the Official Publication of the Dictionary Appreciation Society of Laurel, Maryland and the Butter Lamb Reference Library.” As stuffy as that sounds, Smith is dealing in true nerd zine territory, not in stodgy bookman bullshit.

     The Butter Lamb News stakes out a delightfully bookish zine niche, championing print dictionaries over their digital conquerors, even while acknowledging the battle is lost. Still, print dictionaries, like zines, have certain characteristics that can never be replaced. In a single print volume (or several) the dictionary’s user is treated to a scope, a method, a philosophy. Not the willy-nilly definitions of whatever might rise to the top of a search engine’s algorithm. As Smith explains, lexicographers take positions ... between the prescriptivist camp of dictionary editors and the descriptivists, or, those who define words in order to prescribe how language ought to be used versus those who give definitions that describe how words are actually used.

     Lexicographers choose a lane somewhere between these two poles, and publish a wide spectrum of dictionaries. Smith does a great job of illuminating this context, making it accessible and fascinating, opening up what might otherwise seem to be a narrow subject for a zine. Smith’s zine is primarily text, with a few images like black and white reproductions of dictionary covers. It is far from boring, though.

     Additional articles offer up more lexicographical nuance, like a short piece on the ethical quandaries of defining life, the ways dictionary usage statistics can reveal timely human concerns (like all the COVID-related words we’ve been looking up), how words like “cheugy” and “phubbed” make their way into definable usage. Finally, Smith includes a venerable mainstay of zines: the review section — reviewing dictionaries recently acquired for the Butter Lamb Reference Library. Smith’s writing is fun, down to earth and pretty hilarious throughout, poking fun at language and language geeks, while also embracing and celebrating the nerdiness of it all.  


-- Joshua Barton, Broken, January 24, 2023



THE BUTTER LAMB REFERENCE LIBRARY exists to proclaim the good news of reference books as a source of trustworthy information to challenge misconception, confront willful ignorance, and provide answers to an astonishing array of questions be they serious, silly. or something in between I picked this up at bedtime to read for 5 minutes, but I couldn't put it down until I was finished, more than an hour later, Joe publishes letters and zine reviews, but the main focus is on dictionaries and other reference books, which he compares and reviews He always has a column on new words. This issue had really interesting articles about paragraphs and protesters. 


-- Markell Raphaelson West, Xerography Debt issue #53



Regular readers know I love obsessive zines. This falls into that category. This is "The Official Publication of the Dictionary Appreciation Society of Laurel, Maryland and the Butter Lamb Reference Library'. It is an entire zine devoted to dictionaries! New words, old words,and the politics of etymology. it is all here. I loved this.


-- Davida Gypsy Breier, Xerography Debt issue #52



Joe has mentioned his love for dictionaries in his other zine ALTERNATIVE INCITE, but I didn't really understand how much he loved them until I received THE BUTTER LAMB NEWS #1: THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE DICTIONARY APPRECIATION SOCIETY OF LAUREL, MARYLAND AND THE BUTTER LAMB REFERENCE LIBRARY,. Joe's mission with this new project is "to procaim the good news of reference books as a source of trustworthy information to challenge misconceptions. confront willful ignorance, and provide answers to an astonishing array of questions be they serious, silly, or something in between. loe writes about how the pandemic is changing how artificial intelligence is being trained to interact with (or completely ignore) dirty words how an artist is fighting to end misogyy he words people search for in online dictionaries in dictionary entries, and more There's a ton of great stuff in here. Checkit out! 


-- Kris Mininger, Xerography Debt issue #51



Here's something new from the editor of ALTERNATIVE INCITE. the zine devoted to encouraging creativity, And guess what? It has plenty to do with creativity as well. When you were in school [or at home doing your homework) and someone said that you should look it up. you probably pouted just a bit because you didn't want to slog through a dictionary, right? Well, who would've guessed? Dictionaries can be fascinating things, so Joe may be opening your eyes to an entirely new world here! We begin at the literal beginning: dictionary forewords, which almost nobody reads but they should. My favorite piece in the zine is "Say What? New Words and Phrases. New words and phrases are entering the language all the time, since let's face it, language isn't static. lncluded in this article are cheugy, pfilug, and phubber. If I may make a public suggestion here to Joe, how's about looking in the opposite direction in some future issue and presenting archaic words that still hang around the language? (I personally have always liked yclept, for which you have to go back to Medieval times]). Finally, there's a listing of new additions to the Butter Lamb Reference Library Collection, which makes sense because there are more different kinds of references than you might expect. And so - surprise! - here's another zine review wherein I suggest that you get a copy of this as soon as you can.


-- Fred Argoff, Xerography Debt issue #51


If you love words (and I suspect you doed) you will LOVE this zine. Joe3 writes about words, about books about words, and about articles and essays about words. I find myself nodding along not because it has a great beat but because I am agreeing with his statements about...words! [For example, he writes about] The usefulnes of a thesaurus when accompanied by a few good dictionaries to be sure I am using che RIGHT word for what I am trying to say! That an encyclopedia may have been aspirational not ornarmental! There are essays, letters to the editor, new words for Joe3, and more. I, too, was annoyed at the arrival of the term "Quiet Quitting" having been a SLACKER in the 90s! There are some articles about dictionaries and references in the news including mention of some maniac who was threatening employees of a dictionary publisher because of the words they defined! There are some new additions to the library, all of which sound intriguing, and a handful of zines reviews. The last word is from Guy Verbose, Existential Lexicographical Private Eye which was thought provoking on several different fronts. Excellent and Strongly Recommended. 32pp, half legal digest.

--Node Pajomo, issue 2.8

Joe 3 recently sent me a copy of his newest zine creation, The Butter Lamb News, it's already up to issue 3. It's the sarne size and looks similar to his previous Alternative Incite, back issues of which are still available by visiting That's also where youl be able to order this new title. This time around, we see some readers' letters of comment, and learn of some new words and phrases that have attracted Joe's attention, followed by some very fascinating news articles about dictionaries. Who would have imagined that anyone could make reading about dictionaries so much fun? Joe has done just that! There are some zine reviews, and finally, part of what appears to be an original work of fiction from Joe (to be continued on his website).


--The Ken Chronicles, No. 66

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