June 17, 2019

Can Spicy Tweets Save Our Dictionaries?

Ms. Schneider said that while imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, she didn’t think the two accounts were comparable. Merriam-Webster, she said, has “more rigor.”

Grant Barrett, a former lexicographer for the Oxford and Cambridge University presses and a host of the radio show “A Way With Words,” agreed with Ms. Schneider. He said that Ms. Naturale had done a good job of capturing the wry, dry way dictionary editors joke with one another and that, by contrast, Dictionary.com’s tweets were often “too on the nose.”

John Cheney-Lippold, a professor of American culture at the University of Michigan who specializes in digital media, said that dictionaries had a particular interest in promoting their brands since President Trump catalyzed a post-truth news environment.

“They are trying valiantly to reassert themselves as the epistemic chiefs of the world,” he said.

There’s another reason that dictionaries have taken to tweeting. Their industry, wedged between the fast-shifting media and publishing industries, has been struggling.

“Dictionaries, to be frank, are not one of the hot brands that you think of when you think of brands,” said Kory Stamper, the author of “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries” and a former employee of Merriam-Webster. (She left in March.) “No one names Apple, Google, Merriam-Webster. The dictionary industry itself is shrinking, so the more brand awareness you can get the better.”

Not all dictionaries have leapt into the fray. The Oxford English Dictionary still tweets like, um, a dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries account is comparatively restrained, as is the American Heritage dictionary.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/style/dictionaries-tweets-merriam-webster.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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