Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Lexicographer

Erin McKean, The Dictionary Evangelist, is guest blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy. Her latest contribution is Dictionary Myths Part 1: The Myth of the Lexicographer-Judge:

A little bit more on the pernicious side is the belief that lexicographers -- the folks who edit the dictionary -- are somehow on a higher plane of word usage than the common person, and that they make decisions as to what does and does not enter the hallowed ranks of dictionary-words based on some exquisite aesthetic sense, some finely-tuned Sprachgefühl, a kind of lexical perfect pitch.

This, I hasten to assure you, is flatly not true.

Lexicographers are not the word-judging equivalents of the literary critic or the music reviewer; they're not the curators of the word museum. The lexicographer is, or should be, a scientist-journalist combo. They should research what words are actually being used, how, where, when, and by whom, and then report these facts of usage to the public in a clear, timely, straightforward manner.

You can also read about Why Inartful Isn't In.

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