The Dictionary as Data: What the Online Dictionary Tells Us About English
Where: New York Public Library—Grand Central Library
135 E. 46th St.
212-621-0670 Price: Free
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What makes a person look up a word? When do you use a dictionary? Looking up a word in the dictionary is an intimate act for each of us as individuals, but the words sought by millions of users put together tell us a surprising story about the English language. Join Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster, as he presents this fascinating insight into language and popular culture.
By watching trends of lookups on a heavily consulted online dictionary, lexicographers track which entries are being consulted at any given moment. Some words are perennial sources of curiosity, while others show spikes of interest triggered by news from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and sports. Some words express the general mood of the culture; others reflect a poignant specificity. At the same time, this Web traffic tells a story about the changing business of dictionaries–and what is expected of a dictionary in the 21st century.
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Peter Sokolowski is Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster. He has written definitions for many of Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries, is active as a blogger, podcaster, and speaker on language, and has served as pronouncer for spelling bees worldwide. He was named among TIME’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013.