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July 19, 2017 The Modern Law Library

Merriam-Webster editor shares the ‘Secret Life of Dictionaries’

By Lee Rawles

What do lawyers and lexicographers have in common? The main job of both is to determine the meaning of words.

In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles talks with Kory Stamper about her work as a lexicographer and editor for Merriam-Webster; her new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries; and her position as chief defender of the word "irregardless."

We explore the difference between the prescriptivists—whose champion, Bryan A. Garner, writes a column for the ABA Journal—and the descriptivists, and why using the dictionary definition of a word should not end all arguments. We also find out what goes on behind the scenes to produce the newest edition of a Merriam-Webster dictionary.

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In This Podcast:

Lee Rawles
Kory Stamper is a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, where she also writes, edits and appears in the “Ask the Editor” video series. She blogs regularly on language and lexicography at and her writing has appeared in The Guardian and The New York Times, and on Photo by Michael Lionstar.