The Vocabula Review

April 2009, Vol. 11, No. 4 Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Mock Merriam
Web version
 

The eleventh edition of "America's Best-Selling Dictionary," Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Frederick C. Mish, editor in chief), does as much as, if not more than, the famously derided Webster's Third International Dictionary to discourage people from taking lexicographers seriously. "Laxicographers" all, the Merriam-Webster staff reminds us that dictionaries merely record how people use the language, not how people ought to use the language. Some dictionaries, and certainly this edition of Merriam-Webster, actually promote illiteracy.

Consider the following entry from the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's, and perhaps you, too, will mock Merriam:

def
Pronunciation: \'def\
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): def·fer; def·fest
Etymology: probably alteration of death (from the phrase to death excessively)
Date: 1979
slang: cool

Merriam-Webster has the temerity, the gall to include this absurd, useless word in its dictionary. The eleventh edition was published in 2003; then, as now, def, in the sense of "cool," is seldom heard, rarely read. Most often def is used as an abbreviation for "defeated" or "definition" (as in "high-def").

Even the etymology that M-W offers is suspect, for def is more than likely shortened from "definitive."

Merriam-Webster's promotes the slang term def, but it does not include the far more interesting and useful solonist.

Merriam-Webster: no longer "your assurance of quality and authority."

Mock Merriam.

More Mock Merriam

Do you find fault with an entry in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary? Tell us what it is.

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