The hip, swinging world of lexicography

Erin McKean

Erin McKean

Words are alive, says Erin McKean in this TED talk below. She is a lexicographer, shares my geeky infatuation with words and will make equally gratuitous use of the bizarre ones.

Here she deplores the dictionary industry, which has been frozen in time. As a dictionary editor she no longer wants to be a

traffic cop

who “lets in the good words and keeps out the bad words.” Instead, she would rather be a

fisherman

who casts his net into the ocean of English to find what is there.

In another talk, she points out how worldview affects our relationship to language. Noah Webster–the Webster–apparently thought that all languages derive from Chaldean, since Noah–the Noah–spoke Chaldean and, well, he was the only one who survived the flood, wasn’t he?

(Also in that talk: Why “ass hat” is a great word, but not one that will make it into her dictionary. Defined as: Somebody who behaves as though he were wearing his ass as a hat.)

Herewith, the TED talk:



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