Michael Adams earned his B.A. in philosophy and M.A. in English from the University of Michigan in 1983 and 1985, respectively. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan in 1988. He began his teaching career at Indiana University (IU) in 2006 as an assistant professor of English. He was promoted to associate professor in 2009 and full professor in 2014. He earned the additional title of Provost’s Professor in 2016.
Adams is a lexicographer and a historian of the English language and English words. He also has a strong interest in slang and jargon, including the language of television programs and invented languages, and his writings reach both academic and general audiences. In the classroom, he has created and taught highly-rated graduate seminars in lexicography and literature and popular undergraduate courses on slang and aspects of popular culture.
Outside of his teaching roles, Adams held other significant leadership roles throughout his time at IU. From 2009 to 2012, he was the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of English. He served as the acting director of the Liberal Arts and Management Program from 2018 to 2019, and he was appointed the chairperson of the Department of English Language and Literature in 2020.
He is the author of numerous publications, including Slayer Slang: A 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Lexicon; Slang: The People's Poetry; and From Elvish to Klingon, the first academic survey of invented languages, and In Praise of Profanity. He has also worked on dictionary projects and was for several years editor of the Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America.