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Judges, like the rest of us, turn to dictionaries when they're not sure about the meaning of a word. Or they turn to dictionaries when they're sure about a word's meaning, but they need some confirmation. Or they turn to a dictionary that defines a word the way they want it defined, rejecting as irrelevant, inadmissible, and immaterial any definitions they don't like.  Continue reading...
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In the latest quarterly update to the Oxford English Dictionary, one entry in particular has attracted attention: tweet, previously defined only as the chirping of birds, has been expanded to refer to 140-character Twitter updates as well. The OED loosened its usual "ten year rule" to let this newcomer in.  Continue reading...
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Some brands capture your attention with made-up words: Qajack and Squidoo, hungerectomy and splurjobbing. Other brands deliberately misspell familiar words: Klout, Flickr, Cheez-It. But some companies prefer a more traditional way to make an impression — one that might have pleased your third-grade teacher. They consult a dictionary.  Continue reading...
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A Taxing Day for Dictionaries

"Yes, April 15th is still the dreaded tax day," writes Mim Harrison. "But thanks to Samuel Johnson, it's also a great day for the English language and its wealth of wonderful words." That's because it is the date on which Johnson published his monumental dictionary of the English language in 1755. Read Harrison's look back at Johnson's Dictionary here.
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Late last year, there was some controversy in the media over a new book by Sarah Ogilvie about the Oxford English Dictionary's historical coverage of foreign words. The controversy turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, overshadowing the worthy book behind it. Here, Mark Peters has an appreciation of Ogilvie's Words of the World.  Continue reading...
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Arm-twisting is a means of inducing cooperation through pressure. Words do it too — in the case of words, it is peer pressure that induces cooperation, and the pressure on a word is to express a meaning that the word's companions make compulsory.  Continue reading...
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Scandal at the OED? Not So Much

Earlier this week, an article in the Guardian reported that "an eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors." But it turns out that this seemingly sensational story is "completely bogus," according to OED editor at large Jesse Sheidlower. Read Sheidlower's explanation on The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog here. (Update, 12/3: Our own Ben Zimmer has a column about the pseudo-controversy on the New York Times op/ed page.)
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 114 Articles