Hey, AP, wanna talk dictionaries?

August 12, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

On my desk at The Sun and on my shelves at Loyola and home are copies of Webster's New World College Dictionary. As old as I am, the dictionary is in common use in newsrooms and is the reference dictionary for the Associated Press Stylebook.

But back in March, Allan Metcalf reported at Lingua Franca that the dictionary may be moribund. There appear to be no lexicographers actively at work to update it, and he can get no information on its status from the publisher, John Wiley & Sons. (Webster's New World has moved around a far bit. Simon & Schuster acquired it from World Publishing, and then it went to IDG Books and from there to Wiley.) 

Moreover, Mr. Metcalf reports, Wiley announced in March that it had "retained Allen & Company LLC to explore the sale of a number of consumer print and digital publishing assets," including Webster's New World

That being the case, perhaps it's time for the AP to consider adopting a different dictionary as its reference base. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary would be the logical choice, I think.* Apart from the advantages of (a) employing working lexicographers and (b) not being shopped around, it is linked to an online service that I suspect many journalists are already using.

Lord knows it will be a tussle to change dictionaries, even if the AP can be goaded into the decision. Journalists tend to hang on to whatever dictionary they first acquired until it disintegrates. Looking at the battered desk dictionaries at The Sun, I wouldn't be surprised to open one and find that it was printed with the long s.

How about it, AP?

*Though I did have a pleasant lunch this summer with Peter Sokolowski, of Merriam-Webster, whom I esteem, and recommend the excellent blog, harm-less drudg-ery of Merriam-Webster's Kory Stamper,  I have no financial connection with the company and will reap no benefit from this recommendation.

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