I am a “Word Nerd.” As proof, I have an entire shelf supporting an array of dictionaries in my library at home. Some are old, some are new, some are unique (such as an unabridged Oxford English Dictionary in micro print), some are Spanish-English or Latin or German, some are pocket-size, others weigh nigh on 10 pounds.
I have one voluminous dictionary propped up and openly displayed on a lectern for practical (and aesthetic) purposes, complete with page weights and a magnifying glass.
There is a dictionary on my bedside table, one on my home library desk, and one next to my reading chair.
Two dictionaries are within arm’s reach at my office workstation: a Little Oxford English Dictionary and a Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the latter of which is touted as the “Official Dictionary of The Associated Press Stylebook.”
I am a “Word Nerd.” I admire the intricacies of English language usage and respect those who know how to properly administer it.
While I do not consider myself a language snob, I will admit to having a coffee mug that reads, “Grammar Police, To Serve and Correct.” I am, after all, an editor.
My wife, well aware of my obsession with words, has chosen (resigned herself?) to be an enabler of this particular personal vice. As evidence, one of my Christmas gifts this year from her was not a dictionary, but a book about dictionaries: Word by Word, the Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kori Stamper.
Stamper is a lexicographer who worked for nearly 20 years at Merriam-Webster. She has traveled around the world lecturing about language and lexicography. She has been published in The Washington Post, The Guardian and The New York Times. According to her biographical information, “She drinks more coffee and owns more dictionaries than is good for anyone.” Ah, definitely a Word Nerd.
From a book review: “She describes the difficulties of defining seemingly simple words like ‘nude’ and ‘marriage.’ Stamper and her fellow lexicographers work mostly in silence, but they can’t escape being drawn into our era’s vociferous political discourse. … Readers will find a deeper understanding of how dictionaries are compiled, and a trove of amusing insights into definitions and derivations.”
I got to thinking about what it would be like having a job working at a place that publishes the dictionary. I imagine I could spend my days, and months, working to define “task” and then move on to the next task. I could hang out with other Word Nerds and have productive arguments about the etymology (origins) of words and phrases and rummage in the attic of parlance, syntax, vocabulary, usage, meaning, denotation, and so much more. What fun!
Okay, so maybe this Word Nerd will just stick to using and collecting dictionaries and stay at my post a couple more decades as Versailles’ hometown newspaper editor and publisher.