The Takeaway

The Changing Definition of a Dictionary

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More than 50 years after it was published, Webster's dictionary is getting a major update. It will no longer be a reference book. Instead, its database will live entirely online.

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The Takeaway

Today's Takeaways: Mitt in 2016, Oscar Nominations, and The Dictionary

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Takeaway explores a possible presidential run for Mitt Romeny, we have the details on the 2015 Oscar nominations, and we explain why the dictionary is going online-only.

The Brian Lehrer Show

Top Words on Campus

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Merriam-Webster has noted that there's an increase in online searches for certain words at the start of the school year, and they've put together a list of "Top 10 Big Words on Campus". Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor at large who was recognized as one of TIME’s Best Twitter Feed’s of 2013, reviews the list of most searched-for terms by college students on Merriam-Webster's site.

Students: what was the last word that you looked up? Professors: which words do you commonly assign? Do they mostly learn toward cultural literacy? Are the words on this list typical? 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Literally: When Lexicographers Give Up

Monday, August 26, 2013

Several dictionaries have expanded their definition of the word "literally" to include the opposite of its traditional meaning. Steve Kleinedler, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionaries, explains how lexicographers respond to changes in popular usage -- and how misuse can change a word's meaning.

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What's the Difference Between "Rap" and "Hip Hop"?

Monday, May 20, 2013

In this second installment of our musical mysteries series, Soundcheck contributor Faith Salie attempts to discern rap from hip hop. She talks with Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal about the difference between the two terms -- which, as it turns out, is fairly complex. 

"When we talk about hip hop, we're talking about a larger cultural experience," says Neal. "Rap music is part of that larger aspect of hip hop culture, but it's also the part of the culture that's perhaps most visible and most well known to the average person."

Salie and Neal discuss the origins of the terms and how they've evolved over time. And, Neal tells us which categories artists like Will Smith, KRS-One, Nas and Eminem fall into. 

How do you define the terms "rap" and "hip hop"? Leave a comment below. 

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The Brian Lehrer Show

It's Idiomatic

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Christine Ammer, author of more than three dozen reference books, including The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition, gets to the heart of American English idiomatic phrases, including phrases about "the end."

One Last Idiom Challenge: Translate a favorite from another language into English. We'll post our favorites on our website!


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The Brian Lehrer Show

It's Idiomatic

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Christine Ammer, author of more than three dozen reference books, including the new edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms gets to the heart of American English idiomatic phrases.  

Is there an idiom phrase that doesn't make sense to you?  Share your idiom mystery.  


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On The Media

Photographing Tragedy, the Risk of Killer Robots, and More

Friday, December 07, 2012

The ethics of photographing human tragedy, studying the risk of a robot uprising, and one man's attempt to be the trendiest guy in New York.

The Takeaway

Listener Responses: Favorite Regionalisms

Monday, February 06, 2012

Next month, the final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English will be released. A project initially undertaken in the 1950s by linguist Federic Cassidy, the goal was to record all the words and phrases that are unique to specific parts of the U.S. Listeners responded with their favorite regionalisms.

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The Takeaway

A Dictionary of American Dialect

Thursday, February 02, 2012

If you've got a copy of the Dictionary of Regional English, you know that "hotdish" is a casserole-style meal popular throughout Minnesota. A "quahog" is common word for "clam" in New England. And "Euchre" is a card game beloved by Midwesterners of all stripes. Next month the final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English, or DARE, will be released by the Harvard University Press.

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