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.
Two stories in last week's The New York Times feature contributions from DSNA members: you can read Grant Barrett's annual column on words of the year, an amusing, if dispiriting, 29-word summary of the last 12 months, here. Then, check out the intriguing story on a possible etymology for "the whole nine yards," which appeared in the Times the day after Christmas. Ben Zimmer (who was quoted in the article, along with fellow DSNA members Jesse Sheidlower and the late William Safire) has followed up with a discussion of the topic on his Word Routes column at the Visual Thesaurus. Of course, if you want to go the whole nine yards, check out the reader commentary on the Times piece, which is most remarkable for its cheerful refusal to accept the reported conclusions of word-sleuths Fred Shapiro and Bonnie Taylor-Blake.
In other word news, Oxford English Dictionaries apologized for the ghastly timing of its automated "word of the day" mailing, which sent out "bloodbath" as the word for 18 December, four days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Meanwhile, word-of-the-year announcements continue, with "Gangnam Style" and "fiscal cliff" joining the queue at Collins. Editor Ian Brookes noted that "Gangnam Style" has a good chance of making it into the dictionary itself, given its notable association with K-pop star Psy's most-watched youtube video of all time.
The American Dialect Society, which gravely brings up the rear of the WOTY nominations, is still soliciting nominations: according to their website, "Nominations can be sent by email to email@example.com, tweeted to the Twitter user name @americandialect or using the hashtag #woty12, or they can be posted on our Facebook page." ADS votes on the WOTY at the final session of its annual meeting, next Friday, January 4 at 5:30 pm in Boston.
And to wrap up my penultimate post of 2012, let me share the first few sentences of a news story
from the December 20 Orangeburg County [South Carolina] Times and Democrat:
An Orangeburg County man suffering from apparent mental issues was taken for treatment after parking his truck in the middle of the road, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, callers stated a Ford truck was parked in the roadway on Moncks Corner Road in Eutawville. Deputies found a man sitting in the driver’s seat reading a dictionary.
When asked why he had stopped in the roadway, he said Jesus had told him to do so, the report said. ...
And with that, on behalf of the Dictionary Society of North America, Happy New Year! I hope to see many of you in Boston at the DSNA reception on Saturday.
Oxford American Dictionaries has chosen "gif" as the Word of the Year, with Oxford UK plumping for "omnishambles." Check out the reports (and the runners-up) on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. A conventional interpretation might suggest that the Americans are being their usual techno-serious selves, while the Brits are indulging in a bit of whimsy. (Indeed, Oxford Dictionaries UK confess they just like the word.) But come now, folks, surely the Word of the Year should express an idea that is, well, new? An "omnishambles," according to Oxford, is "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, and is characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations." Isn't that just a synonym for "SNAFU"? How do you pronounce STHBCMAICBASOBAM?
The Oxford English Dictionary announces the launch of OED Appeals, a major online initiative set to involve the public in tracing the history of English words. Using a dedicated community space on the OED website, editors are soliciting help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English, including the earliest examples of particular words. The website will enable the public to post evidence in direct response to OED editors online, fostering a collective effort to record the English language and find the true roots of our vocabulary. Appeals will be posted to the website on a frequent basis. Some of the entries the OED team is initially asking the public’s help with include bellini, blue-arsed fly, come in from the cold, disco, FAQ, in your dreams!, cooties, and Kwanzaa.
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.
Reblogging is brisk with a New Year's Eve New York Times story about online dictionaries that "leave out the middleman"--"middleman" now being a synonym for "harmless drudge." Ann Eisenberg's story profiles Wordnik, the project of DSNA member Erin McKean, and the Corpus of Contemporary American English, compiled by Mark Davies, a professor at Brigham Young University. The pros and cons of lexicographer-free lexicography are thrashed out among experts including DSNA's William Kretsczhmar, along with Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Nunberg.
...now Oxford is announcing the Word of the Year when we still have five weeks of 2011 words to experience! Here's what the Independent has to say about "squeezed middle":
Speaking about [Ed] Miliband's term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it, Susie Dent, spokesperson for Oxford Dictionaries and language expert on Channel 4's Countdown, said: "The speed with which squeezed middle has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good candidate for Word of the Year."
The runners-up include Arab Spring, Hacktivism, Occupy, Phone Hacking and Sodcasting.
Alas, I don't have the self-control of the American Dialect Society, which soberly refrains from choosing its Word until January... so here goes. Writing from the perspective of Western New York State, my Word of the Year is "fracking."