cover image Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

Kory Stamper, read by the author. Random House Audio, 8 hrs., $17.50 ISBN 978-1-5247-7615-2

Stamper narrates the audio edition of her witty look behind the scenes of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, where she is lexicographer. The book explores the messy work of editing a dictionary, covering different aspects of the process, including how words get added, who decides the pronunciation, and the challenges of defining everyday words. Stamper deftly shows the cultural, political, and historical implications that play into parsing the meanings of words, tracking usage, and keeping definitions concise. She playfully incorporates her favorite words—often rare and unusual—into the sentences thorough the book. Hearing her breezily employ words like cacafuego or sprachgefühl in the audio edition takes some getting used to, but her excitement and enthusiasm for her subject easily catches on. The most memorable moments are her wry recountings of the ridiculous efforts it takes to determine what a word means. A Pantheon hardcover. (Mar.)