Word by Word:

The Secret Life of Dictionaries

  • Runtime: 9.8 Hours
  • Recording: Unabridged
  • Release date: 3.14.2017
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • 9.81 hrs3/14/2017Unabridged
  • ISBN-13: 9781524776152

An Amazon Editor’s Top Pick for March 2017

Do you have strong feelings about the word “irregardless”? Have you ever tried to define the word “is”? Brimming with intelligence and personality, this vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made is a must-read for word mavens.

Many of us take dictionaries for granted, and few may realize that 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 to define and how to do it, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why 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. And along the way, she reveals little-known surprises—for example, the fact that “OMG” was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917.

Word by Word brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a startlingly rich world inhabited by quirky and erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. Certain to be a delight for all lovers of words, Stamper’s debut will make you laugh as much as it makes you appreciate the wonderful complexities and eccentricities of the English language.

Editorial Reviews

A witty, sly, occasionally profane behind-the-scenes tour aimed at deposing the notion of 'real and proper English'… Stamper corrals [words] to her purpose with such aplomb that readers might just feel like applauding. For those who love language, this debut…will be a delectable feast. Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)[M]arvelous insight into the messy world behind the tidy definitions on the page... Lexicography is not sexy, but in this spirited book about the science and art of making dictionaries, it is by turns amusing, frustrating, surprising, and above all, engrossing. It is perhaps unsurprising, given her line of work, that Stamper employs words with delightful precision in her writing. What is surprising is how enjoyable she makes reading about the drudgery of dictionary making. Seen through Stamper’s eyes, a dictionary is not only a reference source, but also a living linguistic record and a window into history.Bridget Thoreson, Booklist[Stamper] loves her work, and her enthusiasm adds a real zest to her tales of usage… Big-time Scrabble fans will love this book.KirkusAs a writer, Kory Stamper can do anything with words: define them, split them, lump them, agglute them, and make them work for her every bit as ferociously and precisely as she works for them in her day job as a far from mild-mannered lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. You will never take a dictionary entry for granted again.Mary Norris, bestselling author of Between You & Me [Stamper] loves her work, and her enthusiasm adds a real zest to her tales of usage… Big-time Scrabble fans will love this book.KirkusA witty, sly, occasionally profane behind-the-scenes tour aimed at deposing the notion of 'real and proper English'… Stamper corrals [words] to her purpose with such aplomb that readers might just feel like applauding. For those who love language, this debut…will be a delectable feast.Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)[M]arvelous insight into the messy world behind the tidy definitions on the page... Lexicography is not sexy, but in this spirited book about the science and art of making dictionaries, it is by turns amusing, frustrating, surprising, and above all, engrossing. It is perhaps unsurprising, given her line of work, that Stamper employs words with delightful precision in her writing. What is surprising is how enjoyable she makes reading about the drudgery of dictionary making. Seen through Stamper’s eyes, a dictionary is not only a reference source, but also a living linguistic record and a window into history.Bridget Thoreson, BooklistAs a writer, Kory Stamper can do anything with words: define them, split them, lump them, agglute them, and make them work for her every bit as ferociously and precisely as she works for them in her day job as a far from mild-mannered lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. You will never take a dictionary entry for granted again.Mary Norris, bestselling author of Between You & Me A witty, sly, occasionally profane behind-the-scenes tour aimed at deposing the notion of ‘real and proper English’… Stamper corrals [words] to her purpose with such aplomb that readers might just feel like applauding. For those who love language, this debut…will be a delectable feast.Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)As a writer, Kory Stamper can do anything with words: define them, split them, lump them, agglute them, and make them work for her every bit as ferociously and precisely as she works for them in her day job as a far from mild-mannered lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. You will never take a dictionary entry for granted again.Mary Norris, bestselling author of Between You & Me
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