Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

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Have you ever given much thought to the dictionary you use? Have you noticed the subtle changes, the words that come and go from volume to volume, or wondered why we say “sings” instead of “singeth”?

Yeah, not so much.

Until reading this book. (Actually it was a college linguistics course and a Great Courses series, but those made this book that much more interesting.)

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries is a book best described as an ode to language. Words feel precious in this read by Corey Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. It’s a chronicle of a love affair with words, how they are used, how they change in usage over time, and the sheer eccentricities of English itself. Dictionaries are not static, unchanging resources but dynamic places that chronicle the ever-shifting flux of language.

In reading this book, most people will probably come away with more understanding of dictionaries and language than they ever imagined existed. Stamper’s easy humor and engaging narrative make what could be a dull topic—dictionaries? really?—quite outstanding and interesting. From the inner fortitude it takes to write dictionaries to the correct pronunciation of “nuclear,” this is a rich book that delivers more than you might expect.

Reviewed By:

Author Kory Stamper
Star Count /5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Pantheon
Publish Date 2017-Mar-14
ISBN 9781101870945
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue August 2017
Category Books About Books


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