Turns out evasion can take the form of a Trojan horsepucky so subtle and tiny most would not recognize it as evasive at all. This expanded edition of The Evasion-English Dictionary shows how small, everyday, nothing-to-see-here words can hide as much hokum as the longest and vaguest jargon.  Continue reading...
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When judges cite dictionaries, especially as a way of underpinning or justifying a particular decision, the dictionary is suddenly elevated to a position of influence that it did not previously enjoy.  Continue reading...
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I have long been a bit disposed (and definitely not predisposed) to peeve about pre- words that don't really require pre-. Lately I have added a new peeve, actually a lexicographer's lament, about words that begin with the complementary prefix post-. These two prefixes share the quality of suggesting a timeline, and the problematic nature of both of them arises when the reader or listener isn't quite clear on where to land on that timeline, or what is happening there.  Continue reading...
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Lexicography is famously considered an art and science, but Kory Stamper thinks of it as a craft, a term implying "care, repetitive work, apprenticeship, and practice." Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries is a wonderful firsthand account of a lexicographical craftsperson who is master of another craft: writing. Few books about words—or anything else—are this well-written.  Continue reading...
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Just as the OED will never be finished documenting the English language, there's always more to tell about the OED itself. So the latest addition to the historical record of our greatest historical dictionary—The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by lexicographer Peter Gilliver—is most welcome.  Continue reading...
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By most reliable measures, 2016 has been a very good year for fiction lovers. I'm not talking here about literature; I'm talking about the opposite of fact. In mid-November, Oxford Dictionaries declared post-truth to be its word of the year. Indeed, it's been a banner year for all the words we have at our disposal to say, "Nope, it just ain't so."  Continue reading...
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Thanks to numerous anecdotes about the old and new ways of the lexicography, I quite enjoyed The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of it All at the Oxford English Dictionary, the memoir of John Simpson, former Chief Editor. Simpson was a participant and prime mover in the huge changes to the OED, which saw the dictionary finally being produced, "from the computer database, not from copper plates." Because of the unique insights into the most important and impressive dictionary in English, this is a book any word lover should enjoy.  Continue reading...
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