Linguist Geoff Nunberg observes that, in the context of "gay marriage," "As a tactical move, thumping the dictionary has replaced thumping the Bible..." Read or hear his entire essay, broadcast on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, here.
The North Adams Transcript has a long interview with book artist Johnny Carrera about his upcoming show at Mass MoCA. In the latest project to emerge from his fascination with Webster's 10,000 engravings, Carrera is printing the illustrations onto discarded sails obtained from sailmakers.
Carrera remembers: "The question I asked myself when I was given the opportunity was, ‘How the hell am I going to turn these one inch-square images into something that will engage viewers in this epic imagination? I had this thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you could walk into a gallery and it would be like walking into a page of the book, or actually being in the book?’" You can read the rest of the story here.
National Public Radio picked up the Chronicle of Higher Education's story on digital dictionaries, and on 13 March 2013 "Talk of the Nation" host Neal Conan spoke with Merriam-Webster editor and DSNA member Peter Sokolowski about the phenomenon of "vocabulary events." You can read or listen to the story here.
This long article, appearing in the 11 March 2013 Chronicle of Higher Education, offers a detailed survey of issues related to digital dictionaries; the idea for the article originated with the panel organized by DSNA Past President Michael Hancher at the 2013 MLA conference. The essay is a lively, detailed and thoughtful introduction to lexicography in the 21st century. Author Jennifer Howard has interviewed many lexicographers and DSNA members, including Peter Sokolowski (left), Katherine Connor Martin, Ben Zimmer, Steve Kleinedler, Michael Rundell, Ingrid Goldstein, and Lisa Berglund.
My Google alerts are overflowing with the doings of DSNA members:
Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam Webster, reports that the most looked-up words in 2012 were capitalism and socialism, while malarkey enjoyed the biggest one-day spike. Here's one version of the story, from theChristian Science Monitor.
Check out this interview with American Heritage Dictionary Executive Editor Steve Kleinedler. He is talking with Robin Young on WBUR's program "Here and Now" about "Words We ‘Literally’ Want Out Of The Dictionary."
Meanwhile, in Athens, Georgia,
The Red and Black has a story on the lexicography course taught by our 2013 DSNA meeting host Don McCreary: check out this short feature now to whet your appetite for the 2012 volume of Dictionaries (to be published later this month), which includes Don's article on his students' ongoing project "Dawgspeak: The Slanguage Dictionary of the University of Georgia."
When I checked the Times this morning on my phone, there was DSNA member Ben Zimmer's column--the latest salvo in the blogospherical contention over Robert Burchfield's editorial practice as purportedly reported in Sarah Ogilvie's new book The Words of the World. And what was the headline? Well, on my phone I was greeted with "Lies! Murder! Lexicography! Dictionary!" Wow!!!! But on the New York Times website accessed on my computer just now, the headline is the much tamer: "Lies! Murder! Lexicography!"
What happened to "Dictionary!" ?
Very mysterious--though not, arguably, a universally intriguing aspect of this story. Ben's column retraces the uproar following the characterization of Sarah Ogilvie's book on OED in an article published by The Guardian last Monday, and he quotes DSNA members Jesse Sheidlower (an editor at OED, cited here last week) and Kory Stamper (an editor at Merriam Webster and author of the Harmless Drudgery blog) on the unglamorous truths the dictionary business. Ben writes:
"And dictionaries do play a role in legitimate controversies, like the continuing political battle over defining 'marriage.' Lexicographers may want to stay away from such contentious issues, but the authoritative power of their dictionaries means they’re inevitably caught up in such definitional wars — even as they try to stay above the fray and describe language without worrying about the sensitivities of one side or another in a political dispute."
The Atlantic Wire also has a story, by the way, that quotes both Jesse Sheidlower's New Yorker essay and an interview with DSNA vice president Michael Adams: you can read it here.
The eloquent defenses penned by Ben and Jesse and other DSNA members share the blogosphere with new, heated permutations on the original Guardian story. Here's a typical headline from this morning roundup: "Former Oxford Dictionary editor secretly deleted Indian words" (The Indian Express).
I don't think we've been this hot and bothered since Philip Gove (allegedly) gave "ain't" the okay.
Geoff Nunberg reports on the cultural significance of the controversial dictionary. I particularly liked his observation that it was Philip Gove's "fate to become the only American lexicographer whose name could appear in a New Yorker cartoon caption without need of further identification." You can read the story, "When Words were Worth Fighting Over," or listen to it, here.
The blogs are buzzing with the news that Merriam-Webster has added the word "f-bomb" to its Collegiate Dictionary; associate editor Kory Stamper traces the euphemism to a 1988 Newsday story in which Mets catcher Gary Carter spoke of giving up profanity. And how do you like this photo from the website 7 Days in Dubai, which depicts a pair of hollowed-out dictionaries being used to smuggle marijuana? (Sorry I couldn't post the photo here.) Yet people say that electronic media will make the paper dictionary obsolete... You can see why I'm indexing this post as "practical lexicography."
The fact-checking organization Politifact Rhode Island has determined that an aggregate of baboons is not called a "congress," as claimed in a chain e-mail. After consulting dictionary.com, Merriam Webster, and Oxford, which shed no light, and Urban Dictionary, which was apparently updated using the chain e-mail as a source, the reporter sensibly sought the advice of both primate specialists and lexicographers, consulting DSNA President Orin Hargraves. According to the article, the proper term is "troop." Using the word "congress" casts unfair aspersions on baboons.
Is there a collective noun for dictionary-makers? I propose "a fascicle of lexicographers." The term is both apropos and sufficiently obscure to send folks to their dictionaries.
In choosing the 2011 Word, the editors were following the electronic footsteps of their readers, who looked up "pragmatic" in increasing numbers during and following Congress's August debate over the debt ceiling. For more details, including comments from DSNA members Peter Sokolowski (Merriam-Webster editor at large) and Allan Metcalf (executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, which picks its WOTY next month), check out the AP wire story.