Speed Reads

Lexicological cognoscenti amalgamate!

Merriam-Webster's Twitter feed is increasingly, delightfully sassy

On Tuesday, the venerable Merriam-Webster dictionary schooled the ACLU on Twitter — "trolled" would be too strong a word. It started out with President Trump's new rules on immigration:

"You said it, not us," the ACLU responded. "Can ACLU petition to have the word 'vetting' retired or at least disassociated after all this is over?" asked a Twitter user from California, Shawna Iwaniuk. "Bury it with 'yolo.'" The ACLU roped in Merriam-Webster, which went in an unexpected direction:

On Monday, Merriam Webster got sassy with The Associated Press Style Guide — and remember, this is a dictionary playfully sparring with a copyeditor's rule book:

This is all part of the digital reinvention of the 189-year-old dictionary company. Merriam-Webster decided to put its dictionary online for free consumption in 1996, a decision the company credits for its continued success, says James Sullivan at The Boston Globe, and "its Twitter account, run out of the company's New York office by social media manager Lauren Naturale... has been duly noted as an astute, quirky, and humanizing exemplar of corporate communications."

The dictionary's social media presence "is impressive and unexpected," dictionary expert David Skinner tells The Globe. "Lexicography, remember, is not show business.... Sure, the age of social media bestows all sorts of minor celebrity on one type of person or another, but that Merriam-Webster has been able to make lexicographers look cool is still kind of shocking to me." If you want to learn more about how this happened, you can read an interview with Naturale, who has headed Merriam-Webster's social media since 2016, at Vox.