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Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

Unabridged Audio Book

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Kory Stamper

9 Hours 49 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

March 2017

Audio Book Summary

Do you have strong feelings about the word “irregardless”? Have you ever tried to define the word “is”? Brimming with intelligence and personality, this vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made is a must-read for word mavens.

Many of us take dictionaries for granted, and few may realize that the process of writing dictionaries is, in fact, as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography, from the agonizing decisions about what to define and how to do it, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. And along the way, she reveals little-known surprises—for example, the fact that “OMG” was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917.

Word by Word brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a startlingly rich world inhabited by quirky and erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. Certain to be a delight for all lovers of words, Stamper’s debut will make you laugh as much as it makes you appreciate the wonderful complexities and eccentricities of the English language.

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Reviews

  • Jonathan K

    This was wonderful! What a pleasure it was to hear Stamper intonate and explain a plethora of intricacies of the juggernaut that is the English language. Not only an eye opener (ear opener?), but also a Prozac for dealing with those that "don't speak good"! Full of great insights, exhaustively researched material and a wicked wit, Kory Stamper has produced an absolute delight to the aural cavities.

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