Vintage Durango: Merriam-Webster: The ever-evolving dictionary

by Patty Templeton

Noah Webster was a be-all-end-all badass lexicographer. It took 26 years of research and learning 28 languages before he published “An American Dictionary of the English Language.”

Unfortunately, Webster went into debt because his dictionary sold like crap. He created a second edition in 1840, but died shortly after, mortgaged up to the ears. Webster’s estate sold the rights to his dictionary in 1843 to George and Charles Merriam.

The Merriams called their new edition the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” In the 71 years between that second edition and this 1914 Durango Democrat advertisement, they next-leveled the dictionary to include 330,000 more words than what Webster had left them with.

These days, Merriam-Webster runs a hella amusing Twitter (@MerriamWebster) that calls out the incorrect word use of pop culture icons and politicians. For example, M-W tweeted the definition of a fact at Kellyanne Conway during her “alternative facts” incident. They also track trending words. Lately, immigrant, recuse, fascism, and nefarious have been popular look-ups.

Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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