Publishing Research Quarterly

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 480–481 | Cite as

Kory Stamper: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

Pantheon Books, Penguin Random House, New York, NY, 2018, 292 pp, Hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 978-1-101-87095-2
  • Gretchen Webster
Book Review

Interesting facts about the history of our English language and how it is approached by lexicographers are sprinkled throughout Word by Word, The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper. For example, English did not start to be standardized until the fifteenth century, unlike Latin and French, and English spelling continued to be variable for the next 500 years. Or, the rule that prepositions should never be the last word in a sentence “was first articulated by the seventeenth century poet and literary critic John Dryden.”

However, much of this book is the memoir of one lexicographer, not as the book jacket suggests, a comprehensive analysis of the English language. Word by Word is a narrative of Stamper’s personal experiences at Merriam-Webster as a lexicographer (“an author or editor of a dictionary,” as defined by its online dictionary), and her role in the world of dictionary editors cracking the word code. It is written in the style of her blog:

The book’s...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gretchen Webster
    • 1
  1. 1.FairfieldUSA

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