Word by Word

Word by Word

The Secret Life of Dictionaries

eBook - 2017
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"Brimming with intelligence and personality, a vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made - a must read for word mavens. Have you ever tried to define the word "is?" Do you have strong feelings about the word (and, yes, it is a word) "irregardless?" Did you know that OMG was first used in 1917, in a letter to Winston Churchill? These are the questions that keep lexicographers up at night. While most of us might take dictionaries for granted, the process of writing dictionaries is in fact as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography, from the agonizing decisions about what and how to define, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why the small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. Throughout Stamper brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a surprisingly rich world inhabited by quirky and erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. A sure delight for all lovers of words, Harmless Drudges will also improve readers' grasp and use of the English language"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781101870952
1101870958
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Alternative Title: Axis 360 eBooks

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Very witty...in the style of "Eats Shoots and Leaves". There's something interesting to learn here about the vocation of Lexicology but half way through, I felt I learned enough.

GCPL_Angela Aug 08, 2017

Most people think the dictionary itself is -- forgive me -- the very definition of boring reading; "reading the dictionary would be more interesting!" is a refrain aimed at many a dull tome. So a book about how the dictionary is written would surely be the absolute pinnacle of boredom, right? How could the story of a bunch of word nerds sitting in quiet cubicles all day poring over etymologies and usage and pronunciations and on and on possible be interesting?

But it is, and wonderfully so. This book is fantastic, funny, learned, and illuminating. Stamper is wry and witty, and I found myself thinking that I would've enjoyed being a lexicographer myself, had I not gone into libraries. Any lover of words will get great pleasure from this book, and the insights here should be shouted from the rooftops: namely, that language is a living entity that is constantly evolving, not an iron fortress that can (or even should) be guarded and protected against change. Dictionaries reflect how words are used, they don't cause them to be used that way.

You will learn new words, yes. But there's so much more than that here. One of the best books I've read this year, and perhaps in many years. A delight for word lovers. Highly recommended.

l
Logovore
Jul 18, 2017

Granted that I am interested in the subject (otherwise I wouldn't have borrowed the book), I found the description of a lexicographer's life and work as set out by Stamper to be hilarious. She is a bit foul-mouthed, so keep that in mind if you're at all sensitive about that sort of thing.

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