Archive for lexicography

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Noah Webster: The Kanye West of Lexicographers

Angelica B

Image: Angelica B.

Noah Webster is undeniably problematic. It’s why once the rights to his famous dictionary were posthumously sold to Merriam, they immediately hired a new linguist to redo the entire etymology, and why he was known as  “a spiteful viper”, “an incurable lunatic” and “unlikeable” by those that knew him (Kendall 7; Kreidler 109). It’s also why, I will argue, that his ideas have been wrongfully dismissed.

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Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Fact: Dictionaries describe, not prescribe.

Yin Liu

Fallacy: Dictionaries regulate language.

Image: (CC0) Pixabay.

Because I am the U of S English Department’s default ‘language’ person, questions by the general public about dictionaries usually get passed on to me. Once I was interviewed by a reporter about the latest edition of some dictionary — I think it was Merriam-Webster’s — and the words that had been added to it. The reporter wanted to know whether I thought it appropriate that words like sexting should be in ‘the dictionary’. This confronted me with such a wall of misconceptions that I didn’t know where to start busting them. Now that there is no longer a reporter in my office stressing me out, I’ll tackle the false assumptions one by one.

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