Word by Word

  • by Kory Stamper
  • Narrated by Kory Stamper
  • 9 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Brimming with intelligence and personality, a vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made - a must-listen for word mavens.
While most of us might take dictionaries for granted, the process of writing them is in fact as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography - from the agonizing decisions about what and how to define to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define (have you ever tried to define is?), how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. Throughout, Stamper brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a world inhabited by quirky, erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. A sure delight for all lovers of words, Word by Word might also quietly improve listeners' grasp and use of the English language.

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What the Critics Say

"[M]arvelous insight into the messy world behind the tidy definitions on the page...." (Bridget Thoreson, Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Kory should narrate more Audible books!

What made the experience of listening to Word by Word the most enjoyable?

I loved the author's, ( Kory Stamper), modulation and lilt and energy and explanations and rants about words like "irregardless" and "it's/its" and full throttle pronunciations and expertise! She wasn't arrogant, she spoke to the listener as if she were a friend explaining her chosen field.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Word by Word?

Her explanation about how people who apply and are lucky enough to get a job like hers chose it so they never have to talk to people!!! More than ever, people want that!!! Then she explained why SHE was chosen to respond to grievances.


Have you listened to any of Kory Stamper’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have NEVER heard such an enthusiastic reader. I wish she narrated more books! ANY BOOKS!!


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I think I liked her honesty about coming from Colorado and having to adjust to the Mid-Atlantic pronunciations and jargon.


Any additional comments?

As a long ago linguistics minor...I always learned that all we have to do is make ourselves understood even if we don't spell perfectly. But it is an unappreciated art to GET IT RIGHT!!!

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- R. Stern

Great insider information

What did you love best about Word by Word?

I got an insider's view of how Merriam-Webster's Dictionary is "built." It was fascinating.


What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

It was read by the author, and she was by turns compelling, funny, awkward, and annoying. Sort of like most of the people in my Ph.D. program.


What does Kory Stamper bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She has a good instinct for comedy, plus experience in the trenches. She is very good at explaining obscure points and giving funny examples. Lots of naughty words, too, if you like that.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It's not that kind of book. I enjoyed hearing about the sorts of complaints the editors receive from the public. And the book reinforced my belief that people are really, really interested in words.


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- J. Sierra

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-14-2017
  • Publisher: Random House Audio