Dick the Definition

October 16, 2014

148561543bd9c9a97bdOvercast and chilly this early Thursday on California’s north coast — this week is blowing off the doors.
And for the whole year, too.

Today is special — Dictionary Day, or the birthday of Noah Webster, the guy who made the dictionary the dictionary. The first real, full-blown one was published in 1864.

(Illustration found here).

And a visit with lexicographer (look it up!), Kory Stamper, who tools the words found in the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary — F-Bombs and all:

“It takes a lot of thought to write a definition,” Stamper said Wednesday — the eve of International Dictionary Day, a feast day to Noah Webster, an American lexicographer whose name has become synonymous with “dictionary.”
Most of Stamper’s work happens on her Collingswood three-season porch.
Occasionally, she’ll join other Merriam-Webster lexicographers in the Massachusetts or New York offices.
The offices are quiet with word nerds in deep thought, mulling the right words to define other words, Stamper explained.
She expects the same mood on Dictionary Day.
Not much a of a party.
“Within the office, we really don’t celebrate it because we’re busy writing dictionaries,” she said.
“It usually goes by without much fanfare.”
This year, though, Merriam-Webster Dictionary turns 150 years old — cause for an office pizza party, perhaps.

Lexicographers don’t do anything but record language as it’s used,” said Stamper, who’s working on the letter “I” in the newest version of the unabridged dictionary.
Merriam-Webster defines165,000 words in its collegiate print dictionaries and more than 500,000 in its online version, Stamper said.
Thousands of words are added every year, but only about 50 to 100 are deleted.
The list of words in the English language keeps growing.
“Twerk,” however, didn’t make Merriam-Webster’s cut despite the Oxford Dictionary adding it to the lexicon last year.
“We opted to wait,” Stamper said.
“Twerk” has circulated the English language since the 1990s, according to Oxford Dictionary.
Just because Miley Cyrus made it more popular, doesn’t mean it’ll be a long-lasting term, Stamper pointed out.
Usually words must be in circulation for 20 to 50 years before Merriam Webster considers it for addition.
“We wanted to wait to see how much evidence it had after the Miley spike,” Stamper said.
“It’s very common for words to come into use and be hugely popular for two to three years then all of a sudden nobody uses it anymore.”

Well, actually, no one uses the actual ‘dictionary’ book anymore — Google it!

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