Word by word

the secret life of dictionaries

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Word by word (2017)

296 pages

English language

Published Aug. 6, 2017

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4 stars (2 reviews)

"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 …

2 editions


  • Encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Lexicography
  • Lexicographers
  • History and criticism
  • Biography
  • History