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Publisher's Summary

Brimming with intelligence and personality, a vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made - a must-listen for word mavens.

While most of us might take dictionaries for granted, the process of writing them is in fact as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography - from the agonizing decisions about what and how to define to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define (have you ever tried to define is?), how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. Throughout, Stamper brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a world inhabited by quirky, erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. A sure delight for all lovers of words, Word by Word might also quietly improve listeners' grasp and use of the English language.

©2017 Kory Stamper (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"[M]arvelous insight into the messy world behind the tidy definitions on the page...." (Bridget Thoreson, Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Kory should narrate more Audible books!

What made the experience of listening to Word by Word the most enjoyable?

I loved the author's, ( Kory Stamper), modulation and lilt and energy and explanations and rants about words like "irregardless" and "it's/its" and full throttle pronunciations and expertise! She wasn't arrogant, she spoke to the listener as if she were a friend explaining her chosen field.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Word by Word?

Her explanation about how people who apply and are lucky enough to get a job like hers chose it so they never have to talk to people!!! More than ever, people want that!!! Then she explained why SHE was chosen to respond to grievances.

Have you listened to any of Kory Stamper’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have NEVER heard such an enthusiastic reader. I wish she narrated more books! ANY BOOKS!!

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I think I liked her honesty about coming from Colorado and having to adjust to the Mid-Atlantic pronunciations and jargon.

Any additional comments?

As a long ago linguistics minor...I always learned that all we have to do is make ourselves understood even if we don't spell perfectly. But it is an unappreciated art to GET IT RIGHT!!!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Discover the secret world of words and dictionries

Where does Word by Word rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the top books I've listened to so far.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Word by Word?

When the author explained the chaos surrounding the new definition entry of the word "marriage".

What about Kory Stamper’s performance did you like?

Amazing! Simply amazing.

If you could give Word by Word a new subtitle, what would it be?

The secrets of the hidden worlds of dictionaries and words.

Any additional comments?

Why would a geologist, whose native language is not English care about how dictionaries are made? Let me tell you a small story. The official twitter account of Merriam-Webster, the dictionary company retweeted a tweet by Kori Stamper. I had no clue who that person was. I was curious to know. I check Mrs. Stamper's profile and it said that she was the author of the book "word by word". I did a quick search about the book and ended up buying the audio version through audible.com.I care about words. What words to use and when. I, however, thought that dictionaries are just dictionaries; words do not change. Why would they? Apparently, words have a secret world of their own. If you want to know more about it, you have to read/listen to the book.Mrs. Kori's performance was from the heart. It's obvious that she has a passion for what she wrote about. A passion that will certainly get the listeners engaged. After listening to the book, I watched a couple of videos for Mrs. Stamper explaining some words/phrases e.g. irregardless, cannot care less. Overall, it was an enriching experience. Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great insider information

What did you love best about Word by Word?

I got an insider's view of how Merriam-Webster's Dictionary is "built." It was fascinating.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

It was read by the author, and she was by turns compelling, funny, awkward, and annoying. Sort of like most of the people in my Ph.D. program.

What does Kory Stamper bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She has a good instinct for comedy, plus experience in the trenches. She is very good at explaining obscure points and giving funny examples. Lots of naughty words, too, if you like that.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It's not that kind of book. I enjoyed hearing about the sorts of complaints the editors receive from the public. And the book reinforced my belief that people are really, really interested in words.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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ever wonder how those words got in the dictionary?

I've always been a lover of words so when I saw that there was a book called word by word it talked about the origins of words I was all in. what I didn't realize was the story behind how those words get into the dictionary. this book will tell you the story that you weren't even sure you wanted to hear in a way that made you glad that you stopped to listen.

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How The Sausage Gets Made At Merriam Webster

Kory Stamper, I hope you read these reviews, because golly-day would I like to thank you. When I heard that Stamper wrote a book about dictionaries, it was a definite no-brainer to get my hands on this.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries is all about how the sausage gets made. With a little bit of memoir mixed in, Stamper celebrates the English language and the cat-herding task of trying to define what the hell its words mean. There's a redemption story for 'irregardless,' an examination of its vs it's, war stories of defining boondoggles like 'surfboard,' and lots of playful (and sometimes pointed) jabs at attempts to moralize and police a living, breathing language.

Stamper brings the same friendly attitude she has used in Merriam-Webster's "Ask the Editor" video series since 2010 (which made me into an instant fan. I could listen all day about the curious case of 'octopus' and its many plurals). She is also definitely not afraid to wield her dorky sense of humor for good or for evil -- your mileage may vary with that, since it's repeatedly bonked on your head that this book was authored by a geeky introvert...but I personally found it genuine. Any flaw this book may have is overridden by the delight of reading someone who is truly in love with what they do for a living.

I sure hope Stamper writes more, because she has a knack as an educator. It was also nice of her to take a break from her group of fellow word gnomes tinkering away somewhere, hissing at noises and prospecting newspaper article clippings for linguistic gold, and then share with us a little bit of that gold.

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Perfect teachers gift

I loved this book. It is the story on how people behind the dictionary create our narrative of the English language. It is funny and made want to buy a updated, unabridged dictionary. Highly recommend this book to everyone who reads, speaks and uses the English language.

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A jaw dropping revelation Into the love of English

This audio book took me by complete surprise I found myself giggling and grinning stupidly during the entire discussion of the use of words I used correctly and incorrectly. I will never look at the words like irregardless, nude, or surfboard the same. Who knew each word is only the tip of an iceberg of compelling and real very human drama. This book felt like a very thoughtful and personal Valentine. Thank you

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So much fun!

All of the sudden I find myself asking everyone to repeat themselves. It's amazing to think about all the words that we take for granted.

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A word nerd's delight

I loved this book. Kory is a great narrator and she does a fantastic job of using anecdotes to describe working as a lexicographer.

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Hysterically Funny and Interesting

I pretty much devoured this book. Word by Word is hysterically funny and amazingly interesting.