harm·less drudg·ery is owned and operated by Kory Stamper, a lexicographer who has spent almost 25 years now slowly going blind while defining words like “take” and “blue plate special.” She travels around the country giving talks and presentations on things that only other word nerds would be interested in, and she sometimes goes on the tee-vee to swear in a professional capacity.

If you enjoy the sort of pabulum (sense 3) that appears here, you can read more of Kory’s blabbing in the Guardianwhere British commentors endlessly complain on every column she has written there, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. She also occasionally contributes to Strong Language, a blog about foul language.

Her debut nonfiction book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is available at fine purveyors of books everywhere. Publishers Weekly called it “occasionally profane,” which is delightful. She’s working on more nonfiction books that are about words and secret histories, and which will, no doubt, also be occasionally profane.

When she is not doing the word-nerd thing, she does other nerdy things, including knitting, baking, and language revitalization work.  But she will probably not bore you to death with those things here.

Her opinions, typos, and blog are her own, so no sense complaining to anyone else about them.


119 responses to “Who?

  1. How does she know she won’t marry me? What is she, clairvoyant?

    • korystamper

      In this particular case, yes.

    • Juanito

      Interesting article about slang. In the War, along with FUBAR was SNAFU; wish you had mentioned it also.

      • Kory Stamper

        Thanks! I just didn’t have room for “snafu”: I was already about 50 words over limit. Maybe …next NYTimes article?

        • A. Nonymous

          Dear Mrs. Stamper:

          I enjoyed your book very much. Two points:
          (1) You use data as a singular word: “… data is”. I am aware that this is frequently used but here’s a vote against it.
          (2) I think you missed the point about why manhole covers are circular.
          Suppose manhole covers were square. People who think that the following prank is amusing could lift up the cover, turn it so that the plane of the cover is perpendicular to the street, then rotate it so that the edge of the cover is over the DIAGONAL of the hole, and then drop it into the hole. (Then run away.) If the edge of the square cover is 1 meter, the diagonal of the hole would be 1.4 meters, plenty of room to drop the cover in.

          Thanks for the book!

          • Mike

            The so-called problem of square manhole covers is easily solved by designing them to rest on an inner ledge that is smaller than the outer dimension of the cover, just as round covers do. Or by hinging them to the opening, as in fact many such covers are (just google “square manhole covers”). Having never seen this issue discussed by actual manhole cover manufacturers, I suspect the pranksters who would drop a manhole cover (instead of stealing it) exist primarily in the minds of job interviewers.

            I, too, loved your book!

          • George T

            He/she beat me to it. A manhole cover is circular because it’s the only simple shape where the lid can’t fall into the hole. Concise enough?

            Meanwhile, I must protest your use of “factoid”. The common usage is to mean “little fact” where the original (and in my opinion, given the meaning of the suffix “oid”) is “thing that looks like a fact but isn’t”. Probably an uphill battle, but I’m one of those people.

  2. I make up words now and then. I offer them to my friends and my spouse, but they are usually ignored or quickly forgotten. I am going to give you a few words I’ve made up recently. If you like them, they are yours. Please allow me to send you new ones as they occur to me, otherwise they get forgotten and disappear. Thanks.

    Here are two: insinuendo, excremendacity.

    someone must have a use for these words.



  3. just finished reading an article by richard dawkins?
    I think. Thought of a new word: allegorephobic.


  4. I love dictionaries and will browse through them for enjoyment, but never thought of how they are created. Thanks for some great posts.

  5. Melinda Menzer

    My friend Penny pointed me to your blog. She knew I would love it, and I do. I am an English professor at Furman University in Greenville, SC. I would love to see if you could come here and give some “talks and lectures on things that only other word nerds would be interested in.” I’m teaching my History of the English Language course and a freshman seminar called “Who Speaks Bad English?” right now, and you would be great for both of them. Is this possible? Please let me know. Thank you!

  6. Kory, I saw your video on “a, an” — and it reminded me that the word “a” is probably the only word in the English language that you pronounce differently when you refer to it abstractly, versus when used in a regular sentence. When you say, “The word “a” is an article,” you pronounce it as the long-a vowel. But if you say, “I own a dog,” you (as in most people — you specifically may do differently) pronounce it “uh.” Is there some kind of technical, lexographical term for this???

    • Dave,
      The reason is based on the accent, or lack thereof. When you combine the article with a noun or noun phrase (as in “a dog” or “a crazy dog”) the article is un-accented, and so, like many an accented vowel in English is “reduced” to the sound referred to as schwa (from the Hebrew name for a similar phenomenon), represented by the symbol ə or, secondarily, by “uh”. Incidentally, the definite article “the” behaves the same way before a consonant. I believe this unaccented vowel sound may be the most common sound in the English language. (There are perhaps thirty in this paragraph.)

  7. Cassio Vieira

    Dear Kory, I’m curious: live sound engineering?
    Cassio Vieira (yes, that bivalve!)
    Rio de Janeiro

  8. jeffrywith1e

    Kory, I have a question for you based on a thin hunch- and if I’m wrong it could be completely meaningless…..

    Have you heard of the band called the Danielson Famile? If so, have you met them or do you know them?

    Here’s the line of thought-
    1. Your last name is Stamper
    2. You are with Merriam-Webster
    3. The Merriam-Webster Podcast’s theme song is credited to Joshua Stamper- relatively safe assumption that this could be a spouse or sibling
    4. Copyright with New Jerusalem Music
    5. New Jerusalem Music is heavily associated with the wonderful and crazy band Danielson Famile.
    6. Therefore… if Kory knows Joshua in any way… then there’s a chance she’s met the folks at New Jerusalem and there the chances of her knowing the band would seem pretty good.

    Or my whole theory lands in the grass way out in left field.

    • korystamper

      Wow, that’s some serious sleuthing. Should I be worried that you’ve put this much thought into my connections with Danielson?

      The quick answer is yes, HOME RUN, I absolutely know the Danielson Famile and all the fine people at New Jerusalem Music & Sounds Familyre Records. (I’m also a big fan of Joshua Stamper, seeing as how I’m his wife).

      • jeffrywith1e

        That’s awesome! It wasn’t much thought- (other than making sure my grammar was correct whilst trying to communicate with a lexicographer (did I use ‘whilst’ correctly!?!)). It was a flash thought. It took way more time composing the question than it did to come to the conclusion. The moment I saw Joshua Stamper and New Jerusalem I thought you probably had heard of Danielson. Not many have. And fewer actually like them. My brother and I love the band and were even able to see them once in Minneapolis.

        I’m a big fan of these strange little coincidences.

        Well, now I have another question. You said you absolutely know them. Do you like them? They are an acquired taste as far as music styles go. Of the people I’ve met who’ve heard, or heard of them, or I’ve attempted to introduce Danielson to- few love them and most despise them.

      • jeffrywith1e

        BTW, I’ve been looking around and listening to some of Joshua’s music online. This is some good stuff. I’m a fan now, too. Different reason than yours, however.

    • Barnard Spielburg

      I have a demo CD of Tooth and Nail from 1997 that has Smooth Death by Danielson Family which is one of my favorite songs since then. Meanwhile, Kory Stamper is my favorite commentator of the Merriam Webster dictionary website. Coincidence?

  9. Myke

    I make up words all the time that seems descriptive to me but everyone knows are not really words (e.g., diaganeighbor for the folks that live across the street and one house down). Is this a way that some “words” become real words – just by someone making it up and its usage catching on over time?

  10. Myke

    Sure. No problem. I look forward to reading what you have to say on the topic.

  11. Gary

    By all accounts your M-W Ask the Editor cuts (ATE) don’t do your apparent ballsy and whimsical personality justice (I’m still laughing at the back and forth on that first Marc Adler response). I know you won’t marry me, but please allow me to admire you from afar 🙂 . What promted me to google (hey, is google a verb in the dictionary yet???) you today and thus come across this site was a ATE (always have watched yours and occassionally watch others’) I came across when I tried to look up “permitable” which to my surprise apparently isn’t a “word” although I think it should be. Anyway… I’ve been give shit my whole speaking life for using the word “irregardless” and I now know, because of you, I’ve not been wrong. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  12. Pingback: a letter to English « sparrows and sandcastles

  13. psychopathspeaks

    I apologize Ms. Stamper.
    I simply cannot entertain the idea of marrying a purple-headed lexicographer. It’s a matter of principle – please don’t take it personally.


  14. Kory,

    Does Webster’s Biographical Dictionary include entries for names from the Bible and classical Greek/Roman history? I need correct pronunciation for these, and I know Webster’s includes that, while other general biographical dictionaries (if you can find them) only contain encyclopedic information. I know Webster’s is out of print, but there are used copies readily available.


  15. Florian

    It’s been a pleasure stumbling over your blog. Thanks!

  16. Are you really the one who had to define “Bodice ripper”? What a life.

  17. I feel quite at home here. Thank you very much.

  18. Now, can we start –at the very least– regularize English spelling, because there are millions of kids who have struggled and are struggling memorizing all its irregularities! Honest! If English spelling was a car, it would not run! Mind you, do car really … run? In the MEANtime, reform, reform, reform! Still fetching water at the well?

  19. Considering there are millions of kids and people struggling to learn this mess of a language, let me suggest that this is not “harmless” drudgery! In fact, many kids are called “disabled”, as a result. Many will see a life of drudgery, as a result! Ergo, English should be labelled “harmful” –with one “l”, of course, and this website, “harmful drudgery”! If some languages could be labelled toxic or banned, English would be on the top of that list! In the MEANtime, keep prescribing to us! Ritalin with coffee and a little bit of “IN”glish on the side, for good me”jj”ur! Joy! Joy! Joy! Will you call the cops on me? The spelling cops! Not THE cops! Right? Rite? Riot?

  20. nori

    dear kory,
    i feel like florian and isntevenpast – I’m very happy to have discovered yr blog. thanks a lot. i like your style.

    ‘the decline of english’ was an especially good one. as an expat i feel a special responsibility to english. oops, scratch that, i mean to american! why don’t you and your pals at MW folk make it clear that you are lexicographers of american, not english. i mean, do i have to start walking in the road on my way home to lay the table?

    ps – i wrote ‘toward english’ first, but changed it b/c i think ‘to’ is better usage and most of all b/c i couldn’t decide betw ‘toward’ and ‘towards.’ can you help?

  21. vj

    Wordweb is widely used because of its convenience. Why doesn’t M-W come up with something like that?

    On a different note: Huge Crush +1… I do not see the need for repetitive and obvious explanations for this 🙂

    • korystamper

      Oh, we do: we offer lots of downloadable dictionaries. They’re under the “Shop” link on the main MW site. Have a ball! And, as always, thank you for your contributions to the Feed the Lexicographers Fund.

  22. Will

    Brilliant! I laughed. I cried. I ate the whole thing and came back for seconds. In 1975, in a used book store in Atlanta, I came across a book of essays about the publication of Webster’s 3rd. This is even better. Thank you.

  23. SAHarris

    In regards to MW’s “trend watch” for the word Militia.

    It states that modern opponents of gun control tend to support Definition 2, while supporters of gun control generally support Definitions 1 and 3. I think that the real question is, which definition would the drafters of the Second Amendment support? Which definitions were in common usage in the late-18th century?

    • korystamper

      Excellent question, and one we cannot possibly answer. Whole books are written on this subject; decades of arguments have centered on the intent of the Second Amendment. Even if you looked at dictionaries used by the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (likely Johnson’s 1755), it will only tell you what the common use of “militia” was during that time–not what the framers necessarily meant by it.

  24. marc leavitt

    Hi Kory:
    I occasionally take the Merriam-Webster vocabulary test in between thumb twiddles, and I’ve tried to leave a question on the web page, but haven’t been successful. I’m curious about the relevance of the scores; e.g., do the numbers mean anything? And why?
    Second, the test is much too easy (I know; I’m blowing my own horn). Could someone up the ante, or add a harder test?

    I’d appreciate your help. Your column is great fun.

  25. why do I think about David Foster Wallace now?

  26. Amygdalism : continually responding to perceived threats of any kind with immediate fight or flight strategies regardless of consequences.

    I thought you might want to put this in your next dictionary. No charge.

  27. Love your blog and your sense of humor! Sounds like a dream job to me; I read the dictionary for fun, and turn me loose with the OED and I’m in heaven!

  28. I don’t like a lot of blogs. Yours I love!

  29. The notion that there is rampant confusion over less/fewer but that the history of English belies the putative rigidity of this rule seems exaggerated if not bogus. Some scolds may find the rule confusing, but to me the “exceptions” — sums of money, units of time, distances and others — would seem to conform to the rule’s intrinsic logic.

  30. Alex

    Howdy from Brazil!
    My first language is Portuguese, but English is first in my heart: I like it better than Portuguese! Simpler grammar, shorter words. You know what latin languages are like…
    As I love languages, and English in particular, I’ve been your fan ever since I found your videos. To be honest, I like all MW videos, but I have to say that yours (I mean you!!!) are my favorite. Lucky guy, your husband. But don’t let your ego swell, that would ruin everything good in you.
    So how come I’m only the 456th follower of ths blog? You, I mean, it deserves a lot more.
    I’ve got an idea: right now I’m taking an online course by Coursera/Duke U: English Composition I – Achieving Expertise, and I’m going to ADVERTISE this blog there! On the grounds of linguistic relevance, no matter who the writer is.
    Most students are non-native speakers of English, but I think they’ll be interested. 🙂

  31. Kory, or anybody, but I hope Kory reads this: How would an excellent, fluent translator translate this sentence from English to, say, Italian? “He’s a real Eddie Haskel.” I wonder if every culture has a word that means Eddie Haskel.

  32. Sky

    I was just telling a friend about your wonderful article “Alma Mater,” but when I looked for it online the original link from brainchildmag was dead. I can’t seem to find it anywhere else, either. Do you know if there’s any way to access the article? I can’t (don’t want to) believe it’s just gone.

    • korystamper

      Hmm, if the original link is dead, then I think it’s no longer available online period. I’ll check, though! Thanks for reminding me that, um, I wrote that!

      • Sky

        Drat! I should have saved the text when I had the chance. Thanks anyhow!

      • Sky

        I just went to look for the article again and it’s back! It seems they reposted it last April.
        brainchildmag dot com/2014/04/alma-mater/ (written thusly to get past link filters)

  33. David F

    Kory, I recently came across your blog, and I must say I am entranced. I won’t ask you to marry me; my wife insists on the mano a mano of monogamy. I will say I find your stance refreshing, thoughtful, and decidedly not dreary. (This from a business writing teacher who must firmly enforce The Rules while striving to be, well, thoughtful and undreary.) Thank you for writing with humor, clarity, and style. And thanks for using “asshattery” in your National Grammar Day post.
    –a new devoted fan.

  34. Mr. Peican Pants

    Bad grammer makes me [sic]

    Your future ex-husband

  35. Peter Bodnar

    Love your site, love your videos.

    From your About section: (Pursuant to the video series: yes, her hair changes colors, and no, she will not marry you).

    Should the period be inside the close parenthesis?

  36. From “Monophysite” to “bodice ripper”… sounds like the new “A to Z” 🙂

  37. sf

    Interesting blog! I had always thought it was spelled “shpeel”. Thanks for mentioning that, so now I know.

  38. Linda Babat

    Kory, when I met you (again) at ITBE, I had no idea you were a celeb with a Grammar Girl connection. Hope the rest of your trip was a good one!

    Linda (Natgeo learning ESL)

  39. J

    There in lay your problem, you work for Websters. The greatest butcher of the English language that ever lived.

  40. My NYC high school (Hunter College HS) required that we take a speech class to get rid of at least some of our NY accents. We were told “If you ever leave NYC, no one will listen to a thing you have to say because of that accent.” This helped me navigate decades in the West and deep South, it also served Elena Kagan, Bernadine Healey, and Cynthia Nixon well.

  41. If you won’t marry us, can we at least be friends? 😉

    But my more serious comments:

    1. I love your blog and your MW videos. You have a great sense of humor that comes across on the blog and take a pretty good tact on being the language descriptivist that you are but still admitting that there is some value in understanding language prescriptivism and not having to like a word like “irregardless” even if it is a word.

    2. How would one get a job at MW or another major dictionary, doing language related work? I tried looking for a MW careers page, but haven’t had any luck finding one. And how much linguistic background experience is necessary? My degree is in linguistics and I have done work on a Japanese-English dictionary, but that’s about the extent of my experience.

  42. Stephen

    I’m curious how many words do you know? (estimate Ok) and when is the next “editors of merriam-webster” calendar due out? and how much for a signed copy?

  43. Stephen

    Oh, and how did you get your job (or how does one in general get a lexicographer job)?

  44. Hello there, I’ve just been wandering about your blog, and it’s really very funny. Although, I’m sure you’ve been told that many times before. I particularly liked your post about a conversation you might have had with a person on the plane about old dictionaries vs. new dictionaries. Looking forward to reading more 🙂

  45. Unbar Sabermaster

    ‘Do not look at a woman so much, lest you fell for her…’, so say my people.

    And, I cannot turn my stare -that’s problematic… neither can I divert my attention from the musical utterance- that’s more problematic… nor can I refrain myself from amazement when I see her ‘hall of fame’ -that’s the most problematic…

  46. Unxbar

    Kory… for the sake of whatever you value/hold sacred tell me; please tell me the truth; did you ever play Age of Conan?

  47. Congratulations! I have nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Being as I am a logophile, I couldn’t ask for better than all the wonderful information I learn here.

  48. Kory,

    FUBAR and its cousin SNAFU never went out of favor with US Navy personell. We just substituted “fouled” for the “F” word so it could be used in polite company. Fouling anything is a serious offense in the Navy. I always thought it strange then that Commissioned Officers used crossed and fouled anchors are their hat insignia.


  49. Loved your article in the op-ed section of the NYT this morning. If you know FUBAR (and its comp-sci brother, “foo” ) then you should know its more obscure cousin “TARFU” — Things Are F—ed up, as well as the better known “SNAFU” (Situation Normal All F—ed Up).

    Like “spiel”, which you use above, there’s also the wonderful Yiddish word “tarpotchkheit”, meaning, like, really broken. Gotta love that good crunchy slang!

    • Kory Stamper

      I’m familiar with both “TARFU” and “snafu”: we have evidence for both in our files, and we enter “snafu” as a noun. “TARFU,” not so much.

  50. Hi Kory — I just read your great Slate piece on color swatches. We travel in some common waters; I wrote this piece on color dictionaries for the Smithsonian recently: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-red-dragons-blood-180951822/. I have an entire chapter in my last book about color dictionaries and the names used in those dictionaries, and I’m especially obsessed with the 1,115 color names Robert Ridgway used in his 1912 book Color Standards and Color Nomenclature.. All best — Dan Lewis / The Huntington Library

  51. Thanks Kory. Delighted to have found your intriguing, interest packed blog. I will return often. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.

  52. Saurabh Mangal

    Kory Please marry me….

  53. thesitrep

    So, I invent a perfectly cromulent word and submitted it to the Urban Dictionary, but they declined to add it. I am of course incensed, but I suspect that the editors found it to be hitting a little too close to home.
    The word is ‘chubgly” I suspect after it finds universal usage it will morph in to “chugly”, and that is fine.
    Chubgly is a portmanteau of Chubby and Ugly.
    usage: Lena Dunham is a chubgly girl.
    It is just not right to have such a wonderful language such as English and not have this very useful and descriptive word
    I must say that I feel proud to have fixed the deficit.
    So, I would like to ask you all to use it freely and often, as there will be so many opportunities in 2015 and beyond

  54. biggscott

    Hi Kory,

    I just happened to stumble across your videos when I googled a word (ne’er-do-well). Very informative videos! And I didn’t even know that your job existed. I mean, sure somebody writes and edits the dictionary, but I just never gave it much thought. Anyway, thanks for making those videos and you’ve got a nice blog here.


  55. Pingback: Versatile and Neat… | Piggie's Place

  56. Hi Kory,

    I have watched all your Ask the editor videos with my colleague Avon and we really love your hair. MW is our go to site when in doubt about definitions and pronounciation of words.

    I just started blogging and found your blog and I have yet to tell her when I see her again!

    Keep writing and I’ll keep visiting!


  57. And I spelled pronounciation incorrectly, lol. It should have been pronunciation! Pardon me, English is my second language. More power to you, Kory! 🙂

    • Kory Stamper

      I don’t judge anyone’s spelling, especially on the Internet (and especially anyone who has attempted to learn this bizarro language). You’re safe!

    • Kory Stamper

      I don’t judge anyone’s spelling, and I especially don’t judge the spelling of anyone who has attempted to learn this bizarro language! Thanks for stopping by!

  58. Zach Chen

    Hi, Kory:

    You’re one of the koolest people in the internet. I love your “Ask Editors” youtube pieces especially, in which your every sentence, every posture, and every expression deserve a Red Lobster Presidential Medal, to say the least.

    Taking such honor and pride, I’m here proposing a new entry of the word “korystamper” in your Dictionary, which means “the koolest of kool”, e.g. (1) we can use it as an adv, “She is a korystamper girl!”, meaning “she’s totally kool! (2) as a verb: ” Taking a sip of warm milk, President Obama korystampered the room-full audience at this pungent airB&B in Asheville, NC.”, meaning he kool-spelled everyone there. (3) as adj.: “Mother Teresa made a hand-stand before the ill orphans at the California Refuge Camp. Suddenly, korystamper every kid began to smile…”

    We need publish a book and have it packed with the word of “korystamper”… How you think, in a cultural anthropological sense? *smile*

    Korystamperly Yours,

  59. Jo

    Hi Kory,
    I was just telling my friend about your snazzy blog.
    And she wanted to know, how many dictionaries do you own?


    • Kory Stamper

      Hmm. Oof. You mean including desk copies of MW dictionaries? Enough to fill a 3′ x 8′ bookshelf and then some. I’ll have to do an actual count someday.

      Most of the dictionaries I buy for myself are specialty dictionaries. I think the last dictionary I bought was a complete set of DARE at a library sale; before that, probably my Icelandic-English dictionary. Oh, hmm, maybe one of my Finnish-English dictionaries?

  60. Nori

    It goes without saying that you mean an Old Icelandic/English dictionary. There are several on line, you know, –


  61. Linette

    Hi Kory! It’s Linette! My co-worker & I were discussing words that are spelled strangely and he stumped me on 12th (twelfth). LFTH?!? Why?! Is the ‘F’ supposed to be pronounced? Miss you all!

  62. Alisoun Probert

    Hi Kory! I and a friend would like your input on a debate we are having! My friend is a deaf and communicates in British Sign Language (BSL), and I am not deaf but I have learnt BSL and we communicate together in BSL. My friend has an ambition to get together a group of people to set up an online dictionary where English words are translated into BSL, with not just the meaning given in BSL but also different examples of usage of the word and etymology of the English word given in BSL.

    I agree with my friend very much that such a dictionary would be very valuable and needs to be created, but I and my friend disagree on how much interest there would be in such a dictionary! My hypothesis is that only a small percentage of deaf people would be interested in such a dictionary (but this wouldn’t make it any less valuable), and I have based this hypothesis on my own observations that only a small proportion of non-deaf people (i.e. people in the wider hearing population) seem to own or use dictionaries.

    So, this whole debate lead to us trying to find information about what percentage of the general population/which social groups actually use dictionaries – but we haven’t been able to find anything about this online. I believe that a great percentage of the population never use dictionaries at all, but that this doesn’t of course make dictionaries any less valuable. My friend is astonished to hear that I think that a great percentage of the general population never use dictionaries – and we would like to know what your thoughts are about what proportion of people are dictionary users?

  63. Just A Guy

    Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

  64. Pingback: Recycled Genius | Frankly Curious

  65. Lynne Clark

    Hi, Kory. This may sound strange, but I’m trying to find out who to write to about updating the English Language. The language is chaotic and hard to understand, with rules and exceptions to the rules and exceptions to the exceptions. There are double letters, silent letters, ‘e’ at the end of words for no reason, words that are pronounced with a starting sound of ‘s’ but are spelled with a starting ‘p’, why is it ‘enough’ and not ‘enuf’? and so forth.

    I would like English to be the World language, but MANY people would object because of these problems. I think it is time for the English language to enter the Modern World. We need to get rid of a few letters [like ‘c’] and add a few [like symbols for the 2 sounds ‘th’ makes].

    I realize that this would cause quite a stir, but it would also help people learn it easier. And I know it would take TIME, but it needs to start somewhere.

    Thanks for listening to me rant about one of my pet peeves.

  66. I wonder if you young people even know about Esperanto. That was a serious try at a world language, after we dropped nukes on Japan and realized the implications of nuclear war, so that after one short generation, ALL humans would begin to be able to understand one another.

    The world is smaller today in travel time than California was 100 years ago, and yet we humans STILL can’t talk with one another. MOST humans CAN’T talk with MOST humans! We’re worse at communicating with one another than foreign DOGS are!

    I’m surprised the younger generations don’t want to revitalize and IMPROVE Esperanto. Using computers, we could incorporate Chinese, English, and Spanish words and come up with THE most logical, easy-to-learn, easy-to-spell language possible. Kory Stamper would be our Language Czar!

    Can you see it? I can.

  67. David Schidt

    Dear Kory, I apologize if you’ve already addressed this. You linked “the word-nerd thing” with “other nerdy things” including “live sound engineering.” I’m interested in that link, as I like words *and* guitar amplifiers (especially amps built on the classic western-electric circuits). What are you doing with “live sound engineering” and does that relate to your interest with words?
    p.s. “Word by Word” is a GREAT read! Thanks much!

  68. Lifelong copyeditor here. In the first footnote on page 121, where you write about the two ways in which pronunciations are indicated, don’t you mean backward slashes rather than forward slashes? That’s what you show in the text.

    Loved your book, and love that a book on dictionaries is a bestseller!

  69. Peter Strauss

    Dear Ms. Stamper: I love the book, and am reading small bits at a time, wanting it never to end. Your writing is delightful. And more. I just finished reading the chapter on Bitch. I was deeply moved by the power of your writing in the last pages of the chapter. Thank you for so eloquently sharing yourself with us.
    Peter Strauss
    Oakland CA

  70. As an English major and stickler for correct word usage, as well as appreciating beautiful word usage by favorite authors, I’m enjoying your book, and reading it delightedly. However, I have a question about a sentence on p100: “Twenty years ago, no one had any idea that the common verb that means generally ‘to search the Internet for something using a search engine’ was going to be ‘google,’ and a tweet was something that came out of a bird’s mouth.” What stopped me was the disconnect between “twenty years ago no one had any idea…” and “and a tweet…” I thought the “and” with tweet should have been “while” to place it twenty years ago. If “and,” then perhaps “a tweet would be 140 characters,” to link it to google.

  71. Hi Kory et al,
    I notice that ‘Ambivalating’ is not in the Miriam Webster dictionary. There are a couple of references to it on the internet as slang. The ‘Urban Dictionary’ is one such place.
    I have been using ‘ ‘ambivalating’ (and ambivalate) for at least forty years. In fact I thought I invented it because I never heard it used before I used it!Having worked in the mental health field –where we know a thing or two about ambivalence– it seemed quite natural to fashion a verb out of the noun, Comment?

  72. Pingback: They v. the Peeververein

  73. Meghan Moran Wilson

    Hi Kory,
    Just wanted you to know that I assigned Word by Word to my undergraduate “Grammar and Usage” class at Northern Arizona University this semester. Today was the first day of class–I’m so looking forward to our class discussions!
    Meghan Moran Wilson

  74. corybanterblog

    Wondering if you’ve noticed that, on the Guardian’s site, your listed both as Kory Stamper AND Kory Stampers? Anyway, I just read Word by Word, and I thought it was marvelous. Thanks for writing it, and I’m looking forward to your next book!

  75. Eleanor

    Kia ora Kory

    I just finished your book and absolutely loved it. As a writer and editor, I use dictionaries many times every day, so it’s odd how I’ve never given much thought to the poor souls grafting away in basements, faithfully recording the changing use of each word.

    Your writing is wonderfully readable and very funny. I learnt a lot, and I briefly considered changing jobs when I heard how quiet a lexicography office is. You clearly love your job for many reasons, but the pin-drop silence sounds like the best bit, if you ask me.

    Keep writing. You’re good at it!

    Eleanor from New Zealand

  76. TapirFarmer

    Just finished reading WORD BY WORD. I especially enjoyed the perfect balance of erudite vocabulary and motherfucking profanity!

  77. You have the best sidebar I’ve ever seen on a blog.

  78. GREGG Z.

    Hi, Kory
    I’ve become such a fan of what you do, particularly after hearing your interview on NPR. I just realized you live in my town, too. Keep up the great work.

  79. I tweeted at you. That sounds so rude. But I promise I was not: @KoryStamper hi. Just heard your interview on #FreshAir . It rocked. You’ve read this (no doubt): lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/LandO… . Full title : The Land of the Free and the Elements of Style. After I read it I felt so free and all the stupid prohibitions were revealed for what they were: stupid. Can I be your #intern ? #Linguistics #books

  80. Veronica

    I am reading Word by Word for the second time this year because I love it that much (and because I nominated it for the May meeting of my Smith book club). Once again, however, my sprachgefühl has been bothering me during the “hella” section. I wanted to alert you that as a native of Oakland, I frequently hear “hella” used as an adjective to mean “a lot of,” as in “There are hella people in this BART car,” as well as “very,” as Merriam Webster has defined it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s