A popular song from early in the 20th century, covered many times since then, was Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine. The song came to my mind last month, when I returned to the East Coast to attend an annual party that I had missed two years running. All the old familiar faces were there, but with a twist: three of the party's couples, previously "partnered," are now married.  Continue reading...
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A Junior Dictionary Kerfuffle

"The lexicographic kerfuffle, thank goodness, isn't dead," writes Stefan Fatsis in The New Yorker. Fatsis is referring to the recent controversy over the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which has substituted all-natural words like "almond," "blackberry," and "minnow," with such 21st-century fare as "blog," "chatroom," and "database." Some noted writers have said they are "profoundly alarmed" by the changes. Read all about it here.
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HuffPost Live hosted a chat about the uncertain future of dictionaries in the digital era. Among the panelists was our own Ben Zimmer, who talked about how the move away from the printed page opens up exciting new possibilities for what a dictionary can do.  Continue reading...
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Back in the old days (pre-Internet), when life was simpler, dictionaries were thought to carry a certain authority. People consulted them in order to learn or verify the proper and accepted meaning of words, to resolve disagreements, and sometimes to find an authoritative hook on which they could hang arguments. Today, the Internet and other technological developments make those scenarios a little less dependable and straightforward.  Continue reading...
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"YOLO" Enters Oxford Dictionaries

Among the new words just added to Oxford Dictionaries is "YOLO," an acronym for "You Only Live Once." Loyal readers will recall that our own Ben Zimmer has been on the YOLO beat for a couple of years. Read his August 2012 Word Routes column, "Further Adventures of YOLO," here, and read about how his Boston Globe column helped put the word on the map here.
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Merriam-Webster Adds New Words, While Collins Crowdsources

Merriam-Webster has added a batch of new words to its Collegiate Dictionary, with tech words like big data, gamification, hashtag, selfie and tweep predominating. Meanwhile, across the pond, Collins is crowdsourcing the choice of a new word for its latest dictionary edition, allowing people to tweet their favorites from such choices as adorkable, duckface, and fracktivist. Read the Merriam-Webster announcement here and the Collins announcement here.
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Has Shakespeare's Dictionary Been Discovered?

Just in time for William Shakespeare's 450th birthday comes word of what could be an extremely important Shakespearean find. Two rare-book dealers have in their possession a copy of a sixteenth-century quadrilingual dictionary (bought on eBay!) that they claim belonged to Shakespeare himself. The dictionary is already known to be a favorite reference of the Bard, and the owners of this copy think the annotations are in Shakespeare's hand. But there are already many doubters. Read about it in the Guardian here.
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