Word by Word by Kory Stamper
The Secret Life of Dictionaries

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Kory Stamper’s narrative of life as an editor at Merriam-Webster – “America’s oldest dictionary company” – is consistently wry and amusing, but a sadness persists in the telling.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

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.
 

About Kory Stamper

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KORY STAMPER is a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, where she also writes, edits, and appears in the “Ask the Editor” video series. She blogs regularly on language and lexicography at www.korystamper.com, and her writing has appeared in The Guardian and The New York Times, and on Slate.com.
Author Residence: Collingswood, NJ
Author Hometown: Denver, CO
 
Published March 14, 2017 by Pantheon. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Word by Word
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Caitlin PenzeyMoog on Mar 17 2017

...Merriam-Webster’s website is a treasure trove of information on this front, and well worth a visit (for fun!). If anything, Stamper’s dangling of information just makes you want to crack open your dictionary—not exactly a bad result for a lexicographer.

Read Full Review of Word by Word: The Secret Life... | See more reviews from AV Club

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Mar 13 2017

Kory Stamper’s narrative of life as an editor at Merriam-Webster – “America’s oldest dictionary company” – is consistently wry and amusing, but a sadness persists in the telling.

Read Full Review of Word by Word: The Secret Life... | See more reviews from National Post arts

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