Erin McKean: Redefining the dictionary

LT Tim just sent me a TED talk by Erin McKean, lexicographer to the stars. That’s her on stage, beneath a portrait of Einstein, standing next to what appears to be a giant wooden dodecahedron*. And it looks like there’s some kind of psychedelic light show happening on stage right.

TED’s self-conscious “we’re smart” staging aside, the talk is great, and what she describes toward the end sounds a lot like Wordie, or what I hope Wordie will become. She makes the point that there are lots of good word collecting sites**, but they don’t do enough to show the context of words, to provide sources, citations, and provenance. The comments and citations, the links, jokes, and usage notes on Wordie are my Favorite part of the site, and finding good citations and quotes to add to Wordie has made reading a lot more fun for me, something I hadn’t thought possible. God forbid Wordie ever become too serious an endeavor, but it would be cool if, over time, our collective scavenging helped Wordie evolve into a useful language tool.

* UPDATE: see comments for what it really is
** I disagree. There’s only one 🙂

3 thoughts on “Erin McKean: Redefining the dictionary

  1. Really stimulating talk, although I’m not sure about her dress sense (is that being very superficial?)!

    It would have been interesting to hear more detail on how she thinks things will develop on the Web.

    I think Wordie has great potential, but I agree that getting too dry and serious would be a mistake.

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