Thanks to numerous anecdotes about the old and new ways of the lexicography, I quite enjoyed The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of it All at the Oxford English Dictionary, the memoir of John Simpson, former Chief Editor. Simpson was a participant and prime mover in the huge changes to the OED, which saw the dictionary finally being produced, "from the computer database, not from copper plates." Because of the unique insights into the most important and impressive dictionary in English, this is a book any word lover should enjoy. Continue reading...
One of the ways in which massive corpora (databases of natural language examples) have revolutionized lexicography is by providing access to a level of statistical analysis of language that was never before possible. The data in a corpus can tell us, with the effort of a few keystrokes—and backed by the effort of hundreds of person-hours of software development—all we need to know about the most frequent uses and collocations of words. Continue reading...

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A Junior Dictionary Kerfuffle

"The lexicographic kerfuffle, thank goodness, isn't dead," writes Stefan Fatsis in The New Yorker. Fatsis is referring to the recent controversy over the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which has substituted all-natural words like "almond," "blackberry," and "minnow," with such 21st-century fare as "blog," "chatroom," and "database." Some noted writers have said they are "profoundly alarmed" by the changes. Read all about it here.
HuffPost Live hosted a chat about the uncertain future of dictionaries in the digital era. Among the panelists was our own Ben Zimmer, who talked about how the move away from the printed page opens up exciting new possibilities for what a dictionary can do. Continue reading...
Dictionary Day comes but once a year, and here at we're whooping it up, tweeting our favorite word blurbs all day long. Continue reading...

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"YOLO" Enters Oxford Dictionaries

Among the new words just added to Oxford Dictionaries is "YOLO," an acronym for "You Only Live Once." Loyal readers will recall that our own Ben Zimmer has been on the YOLO beat for a couple of years. Read his August 2012 Word Routes column, "Further Adventures of YOLO," here, and read about how his Boston Globe column helped put the word on the map here.

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Scrabble Showdown: "Zen" Versus... "Geocache"?

In Hasbro's "Scrabble Word Showdown," fans of the game have been narrowing down candidates for a new word to include the game's soon-to-be-revised official dictionary. Two finalists are left standing: zen (which many Scrabblers have been requesting), and... geocache, the recipient of a big get-out-the-vote effort by fans of the high-tech treasure hunt known as "geocaching." See the latest from Hasbro here, and read Caitlin Dewey's take in the Washington Post here. Update: And the winner is... geocache!
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