字幕列表 影片播放 列印英文字幕 “Dictionary:” noun, “a malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic.” “Lexicographer:” noun, “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.” While the concept of a dictionary dates back to ancient civilizations, the first English dictionary was published by Robert Cawdrey in 1604. In the centuries that followed, many more dictionaries were written by individual authors who chose what to include or exclude. They not only defined words, they openly showcased their creators' opinions— like Ambrose Bierce's definition of “dictionary” and Samuel Johnson's definition of “lexicographer.” After their authors deaths, many of these dictionaries quickly became outdated. But one 19th century dictionary had a different fate. In 1828, American lawyer and author Noah Webster published “An American Dictionary of the English Language” with a lofty goal: to give the United States its own version of the English language. He believed that as a new nation, the United States needed its own distinct version of English to assert its independence from Britain. In his dictionary, Webster sought to describe and officialize the way Americans spoke. Most dictionaries in Webster's time were prescriptive: they dictated how words should be used, rather than documenting the way people actually used language in daily life. When Webster broke this convention and included slang words in his dictionary, critics accused him of polluting the English language. But he argued that these words captured local variations of language— a vital part of what made American English unique. He also believed spelling rules were unnecessarily complex, and that we should write the way we speak as much as possible. Still, Webster's own opinions influenced the words he included and the way he defined them. He excluded slang words from Black communities because he didn't consider them proper. And when he defined “woman,” he added that “women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible.” By the time of his death, Noah Webster was a household name. Seeing a lucrative business opportunity, brothers George and Charles Merriam bought the rights to Webster's Dictionary. Together with Webster's son-in-law, the Merriams made a new, revised edition. It was the beginning of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Today, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary begins to address a contradiction in Webster's goal: he wanted to represent an entire nation, but he based his work on just one person's opinion: his own. Since Webster's death, each new edition of the dictionary has been curated by a group of language experts rather than by a single authority. The current criteria for including a word in the dictionary are that it has “widespread, sustained, and meaningful use.” This clearly includes profanities, which were sometimes excluded from dictionaries in the past. Racial slurs also meet the criteria for inclusion, but some argue that including them might legitimize them. Dictionaries don't just add new words— they also redefine old words to reflect changing attitudes and usage. One 1736 dictionary defined “wife” as “a married woman whose will, in the judgment of the law, is subject to the will of her husband: for which reason a wife is said to have no will.” Today, “wife” is defined simply as “a female partner in a marriage.” In 2019, Merriam-Webster's word of the year was “they.” The word has been in regular use for centuries, but has only recently gained a new recognized meaning, as a pronoun for one person whose gender identity is nonbinary. The question of which words belong in the dictionary impacts all of us— when our words and definitions are represented, they're affirmed; if not, they— and we— are minimized. Today, lexicographers have expanded word sourcing to include the dictionary's users: tracking which words are most searched, and adding them to the dictionary. So, who decides what's in the dictionary? More than ever before the answer is: we do. All of us shape language every day. When we collectively embrace one word or redefine another, eventually, those words and meanings are reflected in our dictionaries.