References in the News

newspaper-peepsRegular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that, from time to time, I’ve posted what I referred to as “Reference News Roundups,” a not-so-clever title for a collection of recent articles, op-eds, etc. skimmed from the past week of so of news. Well, instead of doing that, I thought I’d just create a page of news that I could add to whenever the spirit moved me. This is that page. (Please, hold your applause….)


Please note: The appearance of the following items does not constitute an endorsement of their content.


Was William Chester Minor a lunatic or learned man?
Ravalli (April 20) – William Chester Minor. Did he shoot a man in London just to watch him die? I don’t know, but his being put in an insane asylum put him in just the “right” place (and gave him the time) to become a volunteer lexicographer for what was to become the Oxford English Dictionary. 

China Publishes Dictionary on Marxism
ECNS.CN (April 20) – China on Thursday published a dictionary on Marxism to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. Have at it.

Kakistocracy, a 374-year-old word that means ‘government by the worst,’ just broke the dictionary
Washington Post (April 13) – Searches for the kakistocracy surged to the top of Merriam-Webster, arguably the hippest of the major dictionaries, which recently made “dumpster fire” an official English word.


From ‘F-Bomb’ to ‘Photobomb,’ How the Dictionary Keeps Up With English
NPR/ Fresh Air (March 16, 2018) – This is from Kory Stamper’s appearance on Fresh Air last month. Kinda old news now, but worth a read if you missed it. A full transcript of the conversation is also available.

Thirteen Cooking Terms You’ll Newly Find in the Dictionary
Pueblo Chieftain (April 10, 2018) – Can you say kabocha? How about kombucha? What do you do with aquafaba? These are just a few of the new food words that Merriam-Webster have added to the dictionary mix.

Washington Post (Mar 27, 2018) – Americans are taking note of President Trump’s habit of muddling words on his Twitter feed. Every time Trump tweets a misspelling or misuses a word, there is a surge in dictionary searches for the “exact configuration” of the letters he used, according to data released by

IAC Sounds Out a Possible Sale of
Financial Times (Mar 26, 2018) – The word of the day at is genethliac, an adjective meaning “of or relating to birthdays”. For bankers at Allen & Co, the word du jour is much simpler: sale. IAC, the owner of, has hired the boutique investment bank to explore a sale of the reference website.

This Illustrator Created Amazing Stories Just from Sentences in the Dictionary (April 11, 2018) – Cool idea.

The Oxford English Dictionary Added ‘Trans*.’ Here’s What the Label Means (April 3, 2018) – Precious Brady Davis says that she uses the label trans* to describe herself because it’s “undefinable.” While that may be true in some senses, the experts at the Oxford English Dictionary have still given it their best shot.

The Nationalist Roots of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (March 30) – Noah Webster Jr., the dictionary’s founding author, was one of the first American nationalists, and he wrote his reference books with the express purpose of creating a single definition of American English—one that often existed at the expense of regional and cultural variation of any kind.

To see past installments of the Reference News Roundup, click on that phrase in the tag cloud on the home page.