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It did not provoke controversies, it settled them." Critics charged that the [Webster's Third] dictionary was reluctant to defend standard English, for example entirely eliminating the labels "colloquial", "correct", "incorrect", "proper", "improper", "erroneous", "humorous", "jocular", "poetic", and "contemptuous", among others.Gove's stance was an exemplar of descriptivist linguistics: describing language as it is or has been used. Glixon put it in the Saturday Review: "Having descended from God's throne of supreme authority, the Merriam folks are now seated around the city desk, recording like mad." In 1962 two English professors, James Sledd (Northwestern) and Wilma R.Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (commonly known as Webster's Third, or W3) was published in September 1961.It was edited by Philip Babcock Gove and a team of lexicographers who spent 757 editor-years and .5 million.He eliminated the "nonlexical matter" that more properly belongs to an encyclopedia, including all names of people and places (which had filled two appendices).

The consensus held that the Third was a "marvelous achievement, a monument of scholarship and accuracy".

The dictionary's treatment of "ain't" was subject to particular scorn, since it seemed to overrule the near-unanimous denunciation of that word by English teachers. The Globe and Mail of Toronto editorialized: "a dictionary's embrace of the word 'ain't' will comfort the ignorant, confer approval upon the mediocre, and subtly imply that proper English is the tool of only the snob".

The New Yorker ran a cartoon showing a receptionist at the dictionary's office telling a visitor that "Dr. The New York Times editorialized that "Webster's has, it is apparent, surrendered to the permissive school that has been busily extending its beachhead in English instruction in the schools ...

The fact that the new book had about 700 fewer pages was justified by the need to allow room for future additions.

In style and method, the dictionary bore little resemblance to earlier editions.

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