Local Author, MacMurray Emeritus Professor Metcalf Dies, Leaves Legacy of A Love of Language

By Benjamin Cox on February 25, 2022 at 4:49pm

The MacMurray College community lost one of its most beloved figures yesterday.

Dr. Allan Metcalf passed away at the age of 81.

The retired Professor Emeritus of English “taught everything from Beowulf to Billy Budd, from journalism to linguistics, from freshman composition to language and the law,” according to his website.

His career spanned more than 45 years, until the college’s closing almost two years ago. Beyond chairing the English Department at various times throughout his tenure at MacMurray, he also served as the college’s Registrar and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2003-2012. He also founded the college’s student newspaper The Bagpipe in 1976. He served as faculty advisor to the paper until 2000.

The author of 8 books, he mostly explored his love of the origin of words in his research and writing. His most recent work was published in 2019 about Guy Fawkes and the phrase “you guys.”

Metcalf served as executive secretary of the American Dialect Society from 1981 until retiring from the position in 2018. His love for words created the society’s annual vote on Word of the Year in 1990.

He made appearances on CBS Sunday Morning and in the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education. He lectured at various places around the country and spent time in Jerusalem for an American Studies seminar for Israeli high school teachers in 1993. He also had subsequent appearances on NPR and in TIME magazine.

Services for Metcalf are pending at Buchanan & Cody Funeral Home in Jacksonville.