Sour Grapes
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Real-life lexicography

Dictionaries are supposed to be anonymous. If you happen not to know what a word means, you just look it up, and a faceless, utilitarian definition wells up to the surface. But there are people known in the trade as lexicographers—Greek for “those who write down lists of words”—who, for each potential dictionary entry, spend hours pouring over slips of paper, books, and surfing the Web to home in on a word, trace its history, and present it to you. It is a kind of writing that wants to go unnoticed...

It may disconcert the reader to learn that there are actual people making principled and personal decisions about what to include and what to exclude...

Joseph M. Romero describes how some of these decisions worked in real life, as the fourth volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English was prepared for publication in December 2002 [via Anu Garg's AWADmail Issue 118].

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