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Thursday, November 12 • 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Opening Plenary: The Dictionary as Data: What the Online Dictionary Tells Us About English

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What makes a person look up a word? When do you use a dictionary? If you assume that most people look up only words they don’t know, you’re wrong. Looking up a word in the dictionary is an intimate act for each of us as individuals, but the words looked up by millions of online users together tell us a surprising story about the English language. Words connect us, words inspire us – but words also can cause confusion, embarrassment, and frustration. By watching trends of lookups, lexicographers track which entries are being consulted at any given moment. Some words are perennial sources of curiosity and difficulty, while others show spikes of interest triggered by news from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and sports. Some words express the general mood of the culture; others reflect a poignant specificity. At the same time, this Web traffic tells us about the changing business of dictionaries -- and what is expected of a dictionary in the 21st century.

avatar for Peter Sokolowski

Peter Sokolowski

Editor-at-Large, Merriam-Webster
Peter Sokolowski joined Merriam-Webster in 1994 as the company’s first French-language editor, and has since defined and edited entries for many of the company's dictionaries. He blogs and appears in the Ask the Editor videos at M-W.com and was named among TIME's 140 Best Twitter... Read More →

Thursday November 12, 2015 7:00pm - 8:30pm PST
Pacific Ballroom A (2nd floor)

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