Dictionaries Are For Selling

May 25, 2015

There is only one reason to publish a new dictionary: to sell more dictionaries. The purpose of a dictionary is to keep up with changes in the language: whatever new words people are using, correctly or incorrectly. 

Updated dictionaries are for selling!
Credit Steve Morvay / fotolia.com

The new Oxford Junior Dictionary has been criticized for dropping a lot of words - such as acorn, moss, minnow, saint, chapel and psalm. The publisher defended the deletions by saying it had to add new words - such as blog, chatroom, database, dyslexic, and bungee jumping. The publisher said if a word is added, another must be subtracted.

Underlying the dispute is the business end of dictionary publishing. There is only one reason to publish a new dictionary: to sell more dictionaries. If a new dictionary is just like yesterday’s, who needs it?

The New Yorker Magazine recently pointed out quite clearly the purpose of a dictionary is to keep up with changes in the language. Whatever new words people are using, right or wrong. Because you can look up irregardless in a dictionary doesn’t mean it’s correct usage. Incorrect words are there just in case you run across one.

As we increasingly stray from proper English usage, dictionaries become more important. Otherwise how would you know that gone missing means disappeared?

Dictionaries are not to teach English; you have to dig-out your high school grammar book for that. And, as the New Yorker pointed out, if a city kid needs the definition of an acorn, he’ll just Google it.

Marketing consultant John Malmo grades current business activities based on over 50 years in advertising and marketing. To ask Mr. Malmo Your own question, visit http://askmalmo.com.