Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

By Kory Stamper

9.81 Hours 03/14/2017 unabridged
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    ISBN: 9781524776152

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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.

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Summary

Summary

AudioFile Earphones Award Winner

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

Editorial Reviews

“Lexicographer Kory Stamper…takes listeners on a verbal tour of her office and the work that goes into creating dictionaries. She narrates with a delight and fascination with language. Showing wry, self-mocking humor, she cheerfully discusses her lack of social skills and which letters of the alphabet have the most words…Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.” AudioFile
Charming…told in Stamper’s fresh and funny voice. Hungry word lovers will find this book a delicious, multicourse meal of word lore. Library Journal (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. Booklist
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 
[Stamper] loves her work, and her enthusiasm adds a real zest to her tales of usage… Big-time Scrabble fans will love this book. Kirkus Reviews
Delightful… Unforgettable… A gloriously (occasionally even uproariously) well written book. Stevie Godson, New York Journal of Books  
Excellent… [A] love letter to letters themselves... [A]n erudite and loving and occasionally profane history of the English language. Stamper [is] a wry and charming correspondent. Megan Garber, The Atlantic  
Witty, sly… 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)
An unlikely page-turner… Offering a nuts-and-bolts exploration of the English language, Stamper displays a contagious enthusiasm for words and a considerable talent for putting them together… Her discussion of the role of language in culture is illuminating, and she is a reliable guide to such issues as the tension between a dictionary’s descriptive and prescriptive roles. The New Yorker  
Cherishes the dexterity involved in making dictionaries… refreshingly attentive to its human stories. Henry Hitchings, The Wall Street Journal  
A fascinating peek behind the process… Part memoir, part workplace chronicle and part history lesson. Reed Tucker, The New York Post
A captivating inside look at the job of dictionary making from both a personal and historical angle… A very cool, very not boring inside world of dictionary making. Arika Okrent, Mental Floss
A pleasant, yet realistic, view of the challenges that come with working at one of the best-known dictionary publishers out there. Jillian Capewell, Huffington Post
Entertains as much as it instructs… informal, funny. John E. McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun
Neatily and wittily covers grammar… A smart, sparkling and often hilarious valentine to the content and keepers of dictionaries. Most people use a dictionary with little thought given to the genesis of definitions, or their maintenance. Stamper pulls back the curtain in Word by Word. Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness for Readers
An unlikely page-turner…Stamper displays a contagious enthusiasm for words...Illuminating. The New Yorker

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Author

Author Bio: Kory Stamper

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download
Category: Nonfiction
Runtime: 9.81
Audience: Adult
Edition: English