How Merriam-Webster Became the Star of Twitter

This is a delightful article about words, Merriam-Webster, and Twitter.

Is there a definition for “covfefe”?

What follows are many other instances where Merriam-Webster became the go-to site.

“When Kellyanne Conway spouted her Orwellian term of art, “alternative fact,” for example, Merriam-Webster was there with the definition of an actual fact. When United Airlines insisted that the man who was forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight was a “volunteer,” Merriam-Webster tweeted the definition of that term. (As one might expect, a volunteer is “someone who does something without being forced to do it.”) When Ivanka Trump offered an invented meaning for “complicit” — and when searches for that word spiked after a Saturday Night Live sketch called her exactly that — Merriam-Webster was there, dutifully noting the public’s interest and reporting on the word’s official definition.”

The interview in the article with the editor of M-W is also a pleasurable respite from the soul-deadening political news of the day.

Here is my favorite exchange:

Q. “Was there a conscious decision made about what the tone of the Twitter would be? Did the election affect that?

A. “Yes, absolutely. Honestly, they’re coincidences. About a year and a half ago, our editor of digital publishing, Lisa Schneider, she basically said — she’d been working for the company for a while, and she said, I’ve met so many of the editors and the people who write the dictionary definitions, and I find them to be really lively and funny. And yet, the social media presence was pretty tame. Boring, frankly. It could be wallpaper after a time, if it’s just the word of the day. So she basically said: I want to make an effort to make the personality that I see behind the scenes to the fore.

“So she hired a wonderful writer, someone with a lot of knowledge about literature — so not someone from the world of social media, but someone from the world of word nerds, someone who loves reading and has a good sense of appropriateness of language, and good wit and wisdom, too. They found Lauren Naturale, and that became a full-time job. Her mission was clear: Let’s make this personality come through.”

[Note: my serious claim to fame is that I am cited in the Tenth Edition as the source of the phrase “umbrella organization.” I blush. It was in common usage before I wrote it. In Texas, we used to pronounce “umbrella” as “umber-ella.” ]

That, happily, is not noted.

from novemoore


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