A Thing About Words

Posts From the Editors

January 20, 2015

Webster’s After Webster, Part Two: Etymology

Noah Webster was a stubborn man—how else could he have written a great dictionary alone? He was also, in later life, a deeply religious man: in 1808, two years after he published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, he was “born again” during America’s Second Great [...] more »

Peter Sokolowski
January 7, 2015

Benjamin Franklin’s Campaign Against Progress

January 17 marks the 309th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is remembered for his inventions and innovations, but, as Walter Isaacson recounts in his 2003 biography of Franklin, there was one kind of innovation Franklin was not fond of – linguistic innovation.  In 1789 Franklin wrote a [...] more »

John Morse
December 18, 2014

The Word: Truthiness

From the start, it was about language. He called it the “Colbert Report,” pronouncing Report with a faux-French flair, while declaring in his very first program that “I will speak to you in plain, simple English.” His daily feature called “The Word” began with a gauntlet thrown down to the [...] more »

Peter Sokolowski
December 15, 2014

How We Determine the Word of the Year

At Merriam-Webster, we determine the Word of the Year by reporting on the words that have been most frequently looked up at our free dictionary at Merriam-Webster.com. We get more than 100 million page views at the site each month—that’s a lot of words being looked up, and we’ve learned [...] more »

Peter Sokolowski
November 20, 2014

Guest Post: “Get the Best” – Bringing a Dictionary to Market in 1864

Madeline Kripke is an independent scholar and one of America’s leading antiquarian dictionary dealers. Her vast personal collection includes 19th-century archives and private papers of the Merriam publishing company. She is sometimes referred to as the Dame of Dictionaries. We’re happy that she has shared some of her historical knowledge with us [...] more »

The Editors

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