Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

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Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries is a book about lexicography by Kory Stamper. In it, she describes the process lexicographers use to determine if something is a word, how they classify and group them, and a mini biography of her life and work at Merriam-Webster and some of the more interesting and controversial words she's had to work on.

Personal

Being a fan of words and dictionaries, I started reading this book. After only a short way into it I was already loving it, so I quickly read through the rest of it and found it very enjoyable.

Status

I don't own this book, but I have listened to the audio book.

Review

Good

  • The book is enjoyable to read. Stamper has a comfortable writing style and uses a lot of colloquialisms and doesn't shy from colorful curse words when the situation calls for it.
  • Stamper uses a wide array of vocabulary throughout the book. Although, as a lexicographer, it would be criminal if she did not.
  • Stamper does a good job explaining the basics of the English language including grammar, word usage, and the various categories we use to describe them. She also neatly explains the job of a lexicographer and how it can be unexpectedly difficult.
  • Stamper makes a great case for descriptive rather than prescriptive English, explains why respelling words to match their pronunciation is a doomed prospect, and discusses why English is nourished by dialects, especially those viewed as inferior, and points out how the hatred of dialects is often a dog whistle.
  • The audio book is read by the author, who sounds not unlike Tracy Grandstaff, the voice actor of Daria from the show Daria.
  • After reading this book, I came away with a much better understanding and appreciation of the language, the writing, and the science of trying to understand it.

Bad

  • Nothing.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Links

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