September 5, 2017 · 9:18 am
I love libraries. In elementary school, I’d grab one of the whistle chairs, drag it underneath the reshelving desk, and hide under there with a stack of books until the verrrrrry last moment of line-up call. My last two years of grade school, my teachers made a deal with me: if I finished all my work early and well, I was allowed to go to the library to read on my own. Heaven. I’d shovel my math worksheet at my teacher and zoom across the hall, where the librarian was ready with another book recommendation, another reminder that I still had two books out, my favorite whistle chair in place under the reshelving desk. The library was the only place I could relax into who I was: a frizzy-haired, buck-toothed, book-loving nerd.
That love continues. While writing Word by Word and while researching for this next book, my local libraries have been indispensable sources of hard-to-find books, research advice, and fiction-bingeing, I-can’t-write-another-word-about-stupid-dictionaries solace. I took my kids to children’s story hour when they were growing up; as they hit their teen years, I encouraged them to go to the teen program the library ran. My little town library hosts events for senior citizens, lectures, classes; provides free computer use and internet access; hosts the town spelling bee and provides meeting space for community organizations. The librarians have never refused to help, even when my question is absurd (“I don’t suppose you have a facsimile of William Bullokar’s 1586 Bref Grammar for English?” “…Can you spell that?”). Every day, librarians show up to work and deal with drunk people, angry people, confused people, and people who just want to sit on the Internet all day and shitpost, so you can understand my fellow-feeling for them.
So, in honor of libraries and the librarians who staff them, I’m running a little contest. Here’s how it works:
- Go to a local library.
- Check out a book. Any book. Something that catches your eye.
- Take a selfie of you and your book. (If you check out ebooks or audiobooks from your library, take a screenshot of the checkout receipt, or a selfie of you reading/listening to said book! ALL BOOKS IN ALL FORMS WELCOME.)
- Post it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #WordbyWordLibraryLove and #Sweepstakes.
On October 7, I will choose five entries: those five folks will each win a signed copy of Word by Word.
How does this help your library? Well, it’ll get your sorry butt in there, for one. But I’ll also be making a donation to the American Library Association to help support all the work that libraries do.
The contest is open to anyone over 18 living in the United States (except for residents of VA, because you have very weird laws regarding contests, and residents of the U.S. territories and possessions, because ditto). You’ll find the full rules here.
See you at the library.
February 6, 2015 · 12:40 pm
O dear and long-suffering readers, I am happy to announce that I finally have an editor.
Sadly, he will not be editing the drivel that appears here; he will only be editing my book.
Merriam-Webster lexicographer & blogger Kory Stamper’s HARMLESS DRUDGERY: How We Define The Words That Define Us, a look inside a lexicographer’s world as we follow the journey words take on their way both in and out of the dictionary, to Andrew Miller at Pantheon….
Yes: I’m writing a book! It’ll be written in the style of harm•less drudg•ery, and it will definitely contain fewer typos. This book has been in the works for a long while now, but the fact that it has left the realm of possibility and moved into, if not immediate reality, then a few blocks down from immediate reality, is pretty damned exciting and surreal. Forgive me if I am gobsmacked. The smack will eventually wear off my gob, I promise.
Don’t fret: I will do my best to keep up the rigorous (<snort>) publishing schedule here at harm•less drudg•ery. After all, those delightful pieces of correspondence are not going to post themselves to this blog. You can also occasionally catch me at Strong Language, a blog that sings my heart’s filthy, degenerate song.
Wish me luck, and send your condolences directly to my editor.
July 22, 2014 · 10:04 pm
I have just finished one of Those Proverbial Days, due in large part to some particularly nasty editorial correspondence. One of those retreat-into-the-bunker-tell-my-kids-I-love-them-avenge-my-nerdy-death sorts of days.
Usually my pressure valve is Twitter, where I vent about the inanity of this vale of tears we call “Letters to the Dictionary” in 140 characters or less. But that is frankly a selfish release: I whine and moan about how crazy our correspondents are, and you must endure said whining regardless of whether you want to endure it or not.
This is the part where I should repent of my selfishness and tell you that I’m going to stop burdening/bothering you while you are getting vitally important updates from KimKierkegaardashian, but let’s be honest: we all totes know I’m not going to do that. I will, however, sweeten the deal by introducing:
“BAD DICTIONARY” BINGO. Continue reading →
February 25, 2014 · 1:37 pm
[Ed. note: Five months! I know. My (very poor) excuse is that I was working on another big project that I can’t tell you about yet. In the meantime, here’s an extra-long post to pay you back for the extra-long wait.]
I was talking with a friend–well, a “friend”–about some of the videos we were about to shoot for M-W. We were at a crowded, chichi restaurant, the type of place where the waiters pull your chair out for you and ask if you want sparkling, still, or mineral water. In short, a place far above my usual grab-and-go, paper-napkins milieu. A place where it behooves you to not only look smart, but sound smart. A place where you’d use the word “behoove.”
So I was behooving, using some expansive vocabulary and trying not to think about how I was paying $12 for a glass of wine when I can buy a whole bottle of it for $12 at my local discount booze shack, when my friend interrupted me. “You’re saying that wrong.”
It was the cliché record scratch, a loud fart in church. “What?”
“‘Towards’. You’re saying it oddly– ‘TOE-wards’. It’s ‘TWARDS’.”
I blinked and dropped a forkful of frisée-glacé-reduction-foofaraw down my shirt. “It is?”
He looked unnerved: the English language is supposed to be my area of expertise. “It’s pronounced ‘TWARDS’. I mean, right? Here, we’ll ask the waiter.”
My stomach hit my shoes. “No, no, I’ll take your word for it.” And we attempted to go back to the conversation we had before I started talking about the videos. I say “attempted”: we did, in fact, have more conversation, though I don’t recall much of what was said. I was just trying to avoid saying the word “towards.” Continue reading →
Filed under general, grammar, peeving and usage, the decline of English, Uncategorized
Tagged as AAVE, ask body spray, behooving, dialect, English, facts, irregardless, loud fart in church, TWAAAAAARDS
April 19, 2012 · 9:36 am
If you’ve been hanging out here, waiting for more long-winded musings on the dictionary, I have good news. There are some new long-winded musings on the meditative art/insanity of proofreading dictionaries, but they are not here: instead, you’ll find them in the guest post I wrote for Andy Hollandbeck’s lovely blog, Logophilius. To read more–and learn the secret yoga position called “Drudge’s Hunch”–simply click here.
Many thanks to Andy for inviting me to clutter up his corner of the Internet.