The End of the Line (Literally)

July 12, 2018

Think you might be good at this lexicography racket? This episode will change your mind--or, at least, it should if you had any sense whatsoever. A good chunk of the job is mastering some of the most mundane publishing details imaginable, and that includes the subject of today's episode: the dots in the mid·dle of the head·words in your dic·tion·ary (or dic·tion·ar·y, depending on which of the damned things you're using). Steve and Kory discuss what those dots are and why they matter; Steve goes full nerdcore while dropping some head-smackingly obvious etymology; and Kory shares a major discovery which will alter the very fabric of lexicography as we know it!

1 Not really, but it sure is fun to think such a thing is both possible and interesting enough to merit an exclamation point.


- What the hell is that weird logo we use on Twitter? Steve has all the answers and they involve the word "fricative."
- Kory pretends to sing and it only sounds a little bit like a kazoo rendition of Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.
- Sick of political arguments? Here's a point-counterpoint you can invest in.
- Mispronunciation Index: NONE, ABSOLUTELY NONE. Not even the one that Kory assumed was an error.

My Blue God: Hard Words

June 28, 2018

Lexicographers have a tweaked view of the language, and that includes hard words. No, not those hard words, like “kononia” and “marocain” (Spelling Bee shoutout!). It's the small words are the ones that make lexicographers weep. Steve and Kory take a look back at some of the hard words they've defined, and along the way, Steve talks parts of speech and forks up the conversation in the best possible way. Kory drops some nerd history about Latin and dictionaries, as she is wont to do. Colors are invoked (with an assist by Steve Martin), as are the Muppets, and God shows up as well. And we learn that Steve should have been a cartographer while Kory freaks out about directions.


P45! Multiple appearances thereof and the dirty secret behind it. 

- Goofus calls us “lower-class slobs”; Gallant says we “had humble beginnings.”

- Mispronunciation Index: one. Just the one.


Pronunciations, or You Say “Diaeresis” and I Say “Diaeresis”

June 14, 2018

Lots of people use dictionaries not for the definitions--who cares about those?--but for the pronunciations. Steve and Kory talk about how those pronunciations came to be, and why the pronunciation editor gets to watch TV all day instead of getting a REAL JOB. They explain what that stupid bananapants alphabet that American dictionaries use for pronunciations is, drop some hot history on how pronunciations got into dictionaries, and go very inside-baseball on how editors figure out which pronunciations to include when they get stuck. Kory talks about Walter Cronkite and lingerie; Steve talks about flaps. And if that wasn't enough, did you know that dictionaries enter the "noo-KYOO-lur" pronunciation of "nuclear"? They sure as shootin' do!


- Arthur the Rat! 
- Tattoos! (Steve's, not Kory's)
- The dankest of nerd memes
- Stamper Mispronunciation Index: 1 intentional, 1 unintentional, 1 disputed

Descriptivism and Prescriptivism

May 31, 2018

If "irregardless" isn't a real word, then why the hell is it in my dictionary?!? It's a matter of philosophy. Steve and Kory give a primer on descriptivism and prescriptivism, two approaches to describing language, and how modern dictionaries are descriptivist (which is exactly the opposite of what everyone believes). They recap the culture wars of the 1960s, which gave rise to the American Heritage Dictionary; discuss the AHD Usage Panel and what it does; lament the state of modern dictionary marketing; and gab extensively about where people can get themselves some of that sweet, sweet prescriptivism they long for. 

- Kory and Steve offer to stage-fight at your conference; 
- Steve introduces you to the best dictionary marketing video known to humanity (and YOU ARE MOST WELCOME); 
- Steve amazes Kory w/r/t Romanian; 
- Stamper Mispronunciation Rundown: "biases"

Getting A Word Into The Dictionary

May 17, 2018

Welcome to Fiat Lex, a podcast about dictionaries by people who write them! Yes, really.

Meet Kory and Steve, your intrepid and nerdy lexicographer-hosts who will give you the drudge's-eye view of English and dictionaries in all their weirdness. In our first episode, we:

- blow your minds by telling you that "the dictionary" doesn't exist;
- talk about how new words get into dictionaries (not by petition, so STOP ASKING) and how that's not as straightforward a process as you would think;
- explain how lexicographers find new words, which sometimes involves beer and diapers;
- touch on how words get taken out of dictionaries, and how that's not as straightforward a process as you would think, either. Assuming you think about such things. (Who are we kidding here?)

- Kory spells a word aloud correctly, which will probs never happen again;
- Steve channels Chumley the Walrus and then goes right into fancy linguist talk about velars and coronals;
- Tennessee represents!