Erin McKean: redefining the dictionary

Today I'd like to plug this video presentation by Erin McKean, editor-in-chief of the Oxford American Dictionary. It's about the future of the dictionary and takes about 15 minutes to watch.

McKean make the interesting point that one advantage of a print dictionary over current online dictionaries is 'serendipity': "When you find things you weren't looking for because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult."

Apus and I have discovered many of our favourite words through serendipity - from absquatulate (chiefly North American; 'leave abruptly') to covin (archaic; 'fraud, deception').

Incidentally, the TED website has a number of other talks that might be of interest; speakers include Al Gore, Bono and Richard Dawkins among many others. Makes a change from watching YouTube videos of people being stupid.


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between Bono and God?
-God doesn't walk around heaven thinking he's Bono.

william said...

Erin McKean is a lexicographer who believes “the book is not the best shape for the dictionary.” In her 2007 TED talk “Redefining the dictionary” she explains that we use the word “dictionary” synecdochically. We use it to represent all of the English language when the dictionary, like a flag, is only a symbol of the language. “The dictionary” doesn’t contain everything and online versions are not much better. They give us very limited context and without context words have no meaning.
consumer generated media

Anonymous said...

Dictionaries "...give us very limited context". That's why we have Thesauri! :-)