Sunday, April 16, 2017

Definitions and politics

Kory Stamper, writing in The New York Times about dictionaries, politics, and Merriam-Webster’s tweets:

It made no difference how dispassionately we tried to present the data (“Lookups for ‘wiretapping’ are up 98,000 percent after Spicer told reporters that Trump wasn’t using the term literally”). We were accused of abandoning our job of writing definitions and subtweeting, trolling and owning members of the administration.

“I literally pasted a definition to Twitter,” said my colleague Lauren Naturale, the social media manager at Merriam-Webster, “and somehow that’s political now.”
Well, yes, that’s political now. The surprised tone here seems to me disingenuous, especially because, as Stamper goes on to say, “the writing of dictionaries in the United States has always been political.”

Insisting that a word means something, and not something else (or that one word, and not some other word, describes reality), can be political. Just as insisting that two plus two make four, not five, can be political.

A related post
A review of Kory Stamper’s Word by Word

comments: 0