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Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

de Kory Stamper

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7554422,036 (4.13)38
"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"--… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I am definitely a word nerd, so of course I enjoyed this. Stamper is one of those mysterious creatures who actually research and write the words in a dictionary (Merriam-Webster). What goes in? What is refused admission? Why? How are definitions written and under what rules? How do they even FIND the words and meanings to be considered? All grist for my curious mill. Stamper can be funny (though she sometimes tries too hard), is very frequently profane (an occupational hazard, perhaps? A word is a word is a word...), but is also smart and devoted to the cause. I particularly enjoyed her revelations about the culture of the dictionary biz: the passionate feelings about words, the cult of introversion in the office (editors do not have phones on their desks; talking is rather frowned upon... sounds like MY idea of heaven!), and the always-whirring brains of the word people as they move about the world (doing things like taking cell phone photographs of an array of cosmetics as documentation of the various meanings of the word "nude"). A pleasant few hours' read. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
Combination of memoir, history of lexicography, and explanation of what it is modern lexicographers actually do.

Consistently informative and well-written enough to keep the reader turning the pages. I loved every page of it. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Apr 8, 2021 |
Interesting look inside the American lexicon. Love the book cover! ( )
  sjanke | Dec 9, 2020 |
The words "fun" and "fascinating" appear in a lot of the reviews of this book, and I have to agree. It's an "inside look" at how the Merriam-Webster dictionary is put together that's both humorous and informative, and it draws you right in. ( )
  stevrbee | Nov 7, 2020 |
She effortlessly made dictionaries cool. ( )
  tduvally | Sep 16, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Hungry word lovers will find this book a delicious, multicourse meal of word lore, the personal story of the author’s life and career, and detailed backstory of the harrowing process by which dictionaries are produced.
afegit per Katya0133 | editaLibrary Journal, Paul A. D’Alessandro (Mar 1, 2017)
 
Stamper . . . has drawn up a witty, sly, occasionally profane behind-the-scenes tour aimed at deposing the notion of "real and proper English" and replacing it with a genuine appreciation for the glories and frustrations of finding just the right word.
afegit per Katya0133 | editaPublishers Weekly (Dec 5, 2016)
 
Word by Word offers marvelous insight into the messy world behind the tidy definitions on the page.
afegit per Katya0133 | editaBooklist, Bridget Thoreson (Dec 1, 2016)
 
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Epígraf
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It may be observed that the English language is not a system of logic, that its vocabulary has not developed in correlation with generations of straight thinkers, that we cannot impose upon it something preconceived as an ideal of scientific method and expect to come out with anything more systematic and more clarifying than what we start with: what we start with is an inchoate heterogenenous conglomerate that retains the indestructible bones of innumerable tries at orderly communication, and our definitions as a body are bound to reflect this situation.
— Philip Babcock Gove, Merriam-Webster in house "Defining Techniques" memo, May 22, 1958
Dedicatòria
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For my parents, Allen and Diane, who bought me books and loved me well.
Primeres paraules
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Language is one of the few common experiences humanity has.
Citacions
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If we hold to the schedule, the new Unabridged should be finished a few weeks before Christ returns in majesty to judge the quick and the dead.
Lexicography moves so slowly that scientists classify it as a solid.
Most people think of the parts of speech as discrete categories, drawers with their own identifying labels, and when you peek inside, there's the English language, neatly folded like a retiree's socks: Person, Place, Thing (Noun); Describes Action (Verb); Modifies Nouns (Adjectives); Answers the W Questions (Adverb); Joins Words Together (Conjuction); Things We Say When We Are Happy, Surprised, or Pissed Off (Interjection).
Your job as a lexicographer, and part of the reason why Gil is looking doubtfully in your general direction this afternoon, is to learn how to carefully parse English as it is used, sentence by sentence, and correctly classify the words within that sentence by their function. You don't decide what part of speech a word is—the general speaking, writing public does. You merely discern what its part of speech is and then accurately report it in the dictionary entry.
We think of English as a fortress to be defended, but a better analogy is to think of English as a child. We love and nurture it into being, and once it gains gross motor skills, it starts going exactly where we don't want it to go; it heads right for the goddamned electrical sockets. We dress it in fancy clothes and tell it to behave, and it comes home with its underwear on its head and wearing someone else's socks. As English grows, it lives its own life, and this is right and healthy. Sometimes English does exactly what we think it should; sometimes it goes places we don't like and thrives there in spite of all our worrying. We can tell it to clean itself up and act more like Latin; we can throw tantrums and start learning French instead. But we will never really be the boss of it. And that's why it flourishes.
Darreres paraules
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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"--

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