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Word by Word
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries | Kory Stamper
136 posts | 64 read | 4 reading | 175 to read
Brimming with intelligence and personality, a vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are madea must read 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 readers grasp and use of the English language.
Amazon Indiebound Barnes and Noble WorldCat Goodreads LibraryThing
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sidherinn
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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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#HelloThursday @wanderinglynn

1. Onomatopoeia
2. See #1
3. See #1
4. Piffle (as in, “Oh piffle, I stubbed my toe again!”

Tagging a few new followers (thanks for that!): @MaceyT15 @ljuliel @sarahjane1077

kspenmoll Love your word! Cannot spell it!!! Love saying it . 2mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @kspenmoll LOL. Yes. I always have to ask Siri how to spell it! 🤪 2mo
wanderinglynn Great words! And thanks for playing! 💜 2mo
49 likes3 comments
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Maude
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Pickpick

This was interesting and funny! I may be biased because I love dictionaries 😍

rwmg Glad you enjoyed it, it's on my virtual TBR shelf 3mo
RebL My IRL buddy gave this to me and now it's a Litten pick. Gotta move it up my list. 3mo
JinksB Kory Stamper made me wish I could hop in a time machine & go back to change my career. [sigh] 1mo
71 likes4 stack adds3 comments
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DogEaredBooks
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When all your Library holds come in at once!

robinb Joy...and terror. 🤣🤣🤣😱😱😱 6mo
ErickaS_Flyleafunfurled Bowlaway is amazing! Enjoy!! 6mo
44 likes2 comments
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behudd
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Pickpick

Fantastic, funny, made for all the word nerds out there! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Lchnessmnstr
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Pickpick

I didn‘t think I could enjoy a book about dictionaries SO much!

“It‘s a made-up word that made it into the dictionary through constant use!” the correspondent said, and I cackled gleefully before responding. Of course “irregardless” is a made-up word... ...All words are made-up: Do you think we find them fully formed on the ocean floor, or mine for them in some remote part of Wales?

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REPollock
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@llwheeler congratulations! You win a copy of Word By Word in my #5665 giveaway!!!

Email me your mailing address at ladybee-at-gmail and I‘ll send your book!

Thank you to all who entered and helped me celebrate my random milestone.

llwheeler Wow!! Thank you so much!! 8mo
22 likes1 comment
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MayJasper
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Thanks for a great giveaway @REPollock #5665
So my favourite dictionary is Oxford and this is probably my favourite word (pictured)

REPollock Yay! Love this word. 8mo
MayJasper Aah thanks 8mo
63 likes2 comments
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CoffeeNBooks
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Thanks @REPollock for the chance to win in your #5665 giveaway! My go-to dictionary is Merriam-Webster, and I have quite a few favorite words, including melancholy, lollygag, meander, onomatopoeia, copacetic, plethora, facetious, perambulate, and palindrome. 😂

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REPollock
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I love arbitrarily hosting a giveaway because of a Litfluence palindrome!

Post your favorite dictionary and tell me a favorite vocabulary word, and tag #5665 @REPollock — I‘ll pick a winner on the 15th who will receive the tagged book. #giveaway

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steph_phanie
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Lindy
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Pickpick

“Most lexicographers had no clue that such a career path existed until they were smack in the middle of it.” –Stamper
If I—who read the dictionary for pleasure from a young age—had known such a career existed, lexicography would have been my number one career choice, so it‘s no surprise that I loved this. It‘s hilarious and the author does a fine job narrating her own #audiobook.

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Lindy
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People do not come to the dictionary for excitement and romance; that‘s what encyclopedias are for.

AlaMich 😂 9mo
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tjwill
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My #lmpbc book has made it home! I‘m loving everyone‘s notes inside! I had so much fun with this. Thanks, #groupN! #NforNonfiction

Riveted_Reader_Melissa Yea! Safe and sound, and back again! I really enjoyed this too, we should do it again sometime. 9mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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You know my wonderful #GroupN, it is only now after I finished Word by Word, that I realize the huge unabridged dictionary in my house that is thicker than my hand....isn‘t “really” a Webster‘s because it‘s not a Merriam-Webster🧐😂 #LPMBC

#TheMoreYouKnow🌈

tjwill How old is it? That‘s a nice dictionary! 10mo
Quirkybookworm Speechless! 10mo
SW-T Gorgeous cover 😊 10mo
See All 6 Comments
Texreader Wow!!! 10mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @SW-T I know right, that‘s why I lugged it home off of a free pile of books, I loved that cover! 10mo
75 likes6 comments
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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OMG, LOL

It‘s all your fault, anonymous friend of Churchill! 😂

Megabooks OMG it is!?!? For real 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Can we blame For Real on Churchill? 10mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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The history behind Ok!

GingerAntics Wow 10mo
Megabooks Haven‘t intentional misspelling kome bak these days? 😉😉😉 10mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @Megabooks What goes around comes around 😂 10mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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Pickpick

Although some parts dragged at times and went off on unexpected tangents, they were always interesting tangents (to me at least) and I enjoyed this dive through the language, it‘s historical quirks, idiosyncrasies, and all those tidbits that make it real, human, and alive. #GroupN #LPMBC

zsuzsanna_reads Have you read The Professor and the Madman? Also about making dictionaries although a very different angle. 10mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @zsuzsanna_reads I‘ll look for this one! I bet @tjwill would be interested in this one too! And @daniwithtea @BarbaraTheBibliophage 10mo
tjwill @Riveted_Reader_Melissa @zsuzsanna_reads I‘m definitely going to check it out! 10mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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“We used “singeth” as the third-person form longer than we used “Sings”.”

That‘s how fast language changes...such an interesting thing to think about...plus it makes me think of the #ShakespeareReadAlong 😉

GingerAntics lol Interesting book. I may have to read this book. 10mo
Bradleygirl This one's the best word nerdery I've read! 10mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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How to make a, or in this case THE, dictionary.

#GroupN #LMPBC

Riveted_Reader_Melissa “Language has moved on”. This section reminded me of some of our #YearOfTolkien readings, where he developed the language from existing languages and how even his created languages developed separately when the elves were separated, etc... like real language, he did not let them remain stagnant. 10mo
Daisey I thought this whole book was great! 10mo
JazzFeathers I don't have the slightest education in this but languages and their history are soooo fascinating! 10mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa
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I‘m loving this one already!

#GroupN #LMPBC

Gezemice Well, one thing about English being your second language, is that you know that language is malleable and concepts are different from words. I oftentimes find it nuts how much significance Americans put onto one word. If you said it in another language, we would not have those issues. For example, he/she. In languages without gender, pronoun issues are irrelevant. Or, why are “trousers” plural? It is one garment... etc. 10mo
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REPollock
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Pickpick

This book was hilarious! If you love words and getting lost in the dictionary, this is a fun read!

Cathythoughts Stunning pic 10mo
REPollock Thank you @Cathythoughts ! 10mo
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REPollock
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😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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REPollock
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Just started this one!

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daniwithtea
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Pickpick

I haven‘t been on Litsy much lately - school is keeping me busy - but I had to pop on to say how much I loved this book. It‘s headed your way, @Riveted_Reader_Melissa !

#lmpbc #groupn #nfornonfiction @tjwill @BarbaraTheBibliophage

Riveted_Reader_Melissa So glad you enjoyed it, I‘ll look forward to it. 11mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @daniwithtea I have about 60 pages left in the book I‘m due to send you. I‘m going to finish it tomorrow or else! Will send Sat! 11mo
tjwill I‘m glad you enjoyed it! I did too! 11mo
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Riveted_Reader_Melissa It arrived safely today! 11mo
daniwithtea @Riveted_Reader_Melissa awesome - I hope you enjoy it!! 11mo
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mkinney10
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Pickpick

Loved this first- hand account of what goes in to publishing a dictionary. If you're looking for a great non- fiction read and you love language, I highly recommend this one!

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BlueMonday42
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Pickpick

I‘ve long had an abnormal obsession with the English language. I read the dictionary when I was 7 and have loved them since. This was an incredible look into how Merriam-Webster makes it, told hilariously and brilliantly by one of the people who writes it. This is one of my favorite nonfiction books in recent memory.

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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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The quiz is called “Can You Actually Define These 25 PhD Level Words?” After Reading Word by Word this month, I had to see how much rubbed off on me. https://www.women.com/laney/define-phd-level-words-quiz-051418

How did you do??

#litsyquizzes #definethesewords #dontworryitsmultiplechoice

Prairiegirl_reading 💯🤓 12mo
Karkar 💯 📚📚🤓 12mo
Richryan52 Me too 12mo
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Theresa 100%. As someone with just a Bachelor's degree I'm glad I didn't spend $ continuing my education because, clearly, it would've been wasted. 🤣😂🤣 12mo
CouronneDhiver Yay! I got 100% too 😊😊😊 12mo
RavenLovelyReads Im in the 100% club too! 🤓 12mo
Kappadeemom 💯 12mo
LibrarianRyan 100%. I thought I‘d get a 90%. There was one or two that I had to think about. 12mo
tjwill Same here 🙋🏻‍♀️ 12mo
tournevis 💯. In all honesty, the assumption you need a PhD to know those words is insulting. We. Are. Readers. 12mo
readordierachel Same! 12mo
shadowspeak17 💯🙋🏽‍♀️ 12mo
ShelfRighteous Even I got 100🙌 12mo
LittleBug Yay!! Me too!🤓 12mo
LittleBug PS my husband, who has a PhD, wouldn‘t have managed 100%. These are so not PhD words🙈 12mo
UwannaPublishme Same! 🙋 12mo
sudi I got 100 % too 😊🙋 12mo
rwmg ✔💯 12mo
100 likes19 comments
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Wbabdullah
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@jesshowbooks #friyayintro
1. National Book Festival in DC! Then cleaning up my office which someone who will remain unnamed neglected and hoarded copious amounts of paper in...
2. I am in love with The Fault in Our Stars and Word by Word (tagged). Oh wait! There‘s Boundaries too! More on that later...
3. Pickles...relish...yuck!
4. Nope, but I am just now learning to ride a bike at the tender age of 33.

Libby1 How wonderful that you‘re learning to ride a bike! ❤️🚲 (edited) 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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Pickpick

I nearly bailed in the middle of this book—inexplicably during the chapter about “Bad Words,” which I should have loved. The last three chapters more than made up for the deadly dull section. They kicked butt! Stamper combines memoir, exposition, and social commentary throughout the book. Sometimes her touch is more deft than others, but I‘d still recommend this!

Full review at www.TheBibliophage.com
#thebibliophage2018 #nfornonfiction #lmpbc

Ubookquitous Her Twitter is great 👍🏻 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @Ubookquitous Thanks—I‘ll check it out! 12mo
Aimeesue I love love loved this book. It made me reevaluate wordy pedantry, and led me to John McWhorter‘s books and podcast (Lexicon Valley.) 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage @Aimeesue Nice!! Sounds like McWhorter would be right in the same genre. 12mo
AlaMich @Aimeesue Yes, I can vouch for McWhorter‘s podcast. Entertaining and educational! 😊 12mo
Aimeesue @AlaMich And full of show tunes!😄 12mo
Clare-Dragonfly I third Lexicon Valley! And I really need to read this book. 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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I love these acknowledgments, especially the fact that she chose “wonder” for her husband. ♥️

#lmpbc #nfornonfiction

Ashley_Nicoletto I love this. ❤️ 12mo
SandyW Sounds like a fun read. ☺ 12mo
britt_brooke So creative and sweet! 12mo
tjwill Awww, I know, so sweet! 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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Happening now. Mochi ice cream and Dandy Blend with my #LMPBC book. Correspondingly, I‘m wondering if mochi has become popular enough to be in the dictionary.

Yes! It is!

tjwill Good to know! 12mo
Echo If you ever want to approach the dictionary from a fiction read this is a lovely read! 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @Echo Thanks! I grabbed that one on World Book Day, but haven‘t read it yet. Glad to have the reminder. 😎 12mo
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Echo @BarbaraTheBibliophage it‘s absolutely lovely! I just finished it! 12mo
WhatDeeReads Kory is my friend and it‘s always so cool to see people reading her book. 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @WhatDeeReads Oh nice! She seems like a fun person, and is certainly a skilled writer. 🤗 12mo
WhatDeeReads @BarbaraTheBibliophage She‘s a rockstar. I hope you enjoy it! 12mo
Li_21 Yummy mochi! 12mo
jillrhudy I loved this book 💕 12mo
BarbaraJean This book was fascinating—loved it! 12mo
LeeRHarry Ok now I need to know what mochi is 😊 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @LeeRHarry Maybe you googled it. But it‘s rice flour that‘s pounded into paste. It reminds me of marzipan candy. In this case, the paste surrounds a small amount of ice cream. So you can pick it up and eat it. 12mo
LeeRHarry @BarbaraTheBibliophage thanks 😊 I didn‘t google it, sometimes I forget I can do that 😏 12mo
Brooke_H My cat was named Mochi. 😸 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage
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Why yes, my dictionary is © 1976. But most of the time I use Dictionary.com these days. I‘ve been enjoying this is small bites for a few days. I‘d better start devouring soon if I‘m going to be ready to send it on at month-end!

#LPMBC #Nforninfiction #groupN

Aimeesue I LOVED this book! Gave me a whole new perspective on “correct usage.” (edited) 12mo
Dogearedcopy I collect old dictionaries and pronunciation guides. There‘s a lot online but there‘a also a lot left behind! 👩🏻‍💻 12mo
AlaMich Apropos of the topic, you might like The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, about the Oxford English Dictionary. It‘s such a great book! 12mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage @AlaMich I‘m pretty sure that one is on my TBR already—thanks!! 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @Dogearedcopy I should will you mine! 😜 I looked up the unabridged Merriman-Webster. 2200+ pages! That probably 2-3 times as big as the one pictured above. Wowza! 12mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @Aimeesue I‘m def enjoying it. 12mo
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InnerSavvy
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Pickpick

I listened to this via audiobook and I'm glad I did. the author had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed listening to her talk about dictionaries and defining words. There's even a chapter on defining take that I really enjoyed. I would recommend listening rather than reading the book.

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Zelma
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Went through most of my recent stack from the library so I needed to replenish. I think I got some gems here. I needed positive and not depressing or dark. #libraryhaul and a little wine. 🍷

Redwritinghood Word by word was so fun. 13mo
ErickaS_Flyleafunfurled Love those Fairyland books! 😍 13mo
Zelma @ErickaS_Flyleafunfurled I know. They are such a delight! And remind me quite a bit of The Phantom Tollbooth. 13mo
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tjwill
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Pickpick

Great for anyone who loves words and the English language. This book is part memoir of a Merriam-Webster lexicographer, part explanation of the production of a dictionary. Headed to @BarbaraTheBibliophage next for #LMPBC #GroupN #NforNonfiction. I just put it in the mail today.

4thhouseontheleft Anyone who loves words....and all Littens raise their hands. 🤚🤚🤚😃 13mo
RestlessFickleBookHoarder 🤚🤚🤚🤚I love words...and I have this book. Still need to read it though. 😂 13mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa You guys are so good! I just started my book today! 13mo
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BarbaraTheBibliophage Yay!! I can‘t wait. I‘m about to post my review and send my book on to @daniwithtea !! 👏🏻👏🏻📚📚😍😍 13mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage @Riveted_Reader_Melissa PLLLLLenttyyyy of time before August 1st!! 13mo
tjwill @4thhouseontheleft 😂 True! 13mo
tjwill @RestlessFickleBookHoarder It was on my TBR a while too! 13mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @BarbaraTheBibliophage 😂 I knew it was going to be a busy month when I joined, but I think I just might make my timeline...for this one! 13mo
tjwill @Riveted_Reader_Melissa You‘re fine! Don‘t stress about being late to me if you have to. 13mo
tjwill @BarbaraTheBibliophage I look forward to seeing your opinions on it! 13mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @tjwill I‘ll keep that in mind, but my goal is to read it, finish it up over the next 4 days and mail it off on Mon or Tuesday. It‘s raining crazy here too, so I should get plenty of reading time. 13mo
Daisey I really enjoyed this one! 13mo
daniwithtea @BarbaraTheBibliophage I‘m so excited! 13mo
jillrhudy I ADORED this. 13mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage Just wanted you to know that the book reached me. Now all I have to do is find time to read it!! 😍 13mo
tjwill @BarbaraTheBibliophage I‘m glad it arrived safely! Enjoy! 13mo
68 likes3 stack adds17 comments
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Wbabdullah

“Good manners, good morality, and good grammar all go hand in hand.” 😂😂😂

-from the chapter IT‘S: On “Grammar”

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tjwill
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Getting started for #LMPBC #GroupN #NforNonfiction and it feels a little weird to write in the book, but it‘s getting me out of my comfort zone, which is good. These chapter titles are 👍🏽.

Lovesbooks87 I feel like I am going to feel the same way about writing in my book! 14mo
Riveted_Reader_Melissa Yea, that one‘s going to be really hard for me too! 14mo
Betty I used a lot of note margins and highlighting while in college and grad school, so it isn‘t too hard to mark in some books 14mo
tjwill @Betty I did that sometimes, but used a lot of sticky notes too. Maybe it will be easier for me, being nonfiction. I can think of it as a textbook! Maybe that would make it easier for you too, @Riveted_Reader_Melissa and @Lovesbooks87 ! (edited) 14mo
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tjwill
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Starting this one soon for #LMPBC #groupN #NforNonfiction.

I guess we need to decide who sends to whom within our group! Who wants it next?

bobregina Cutie 💛 14mo
CatLass007 😻😻😻😻😻 14mo
CatLass007 She‘s lovely. 14mo
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daniwithtea Ooh how do we decide? Alphabetical by Litsy name? 14mo
tjwill @daniwithtea That works for me. That means I will send to @BarbaraTheBibliophage. Is that ok? 14mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage That works for me. So I send to @daniwithtea who sends to @Riveted_Reader_Melissa who sends to @tjwill who sends to me. 👍🏻 14mo
82 likes2 stack adds9 comments
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TracyReadsBooks
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I admittedly don‘t read eBooks unless I‘m traveling—well, it‘s just about the busiest time of year for that... While it‘s not a full 8 week excavation season this summer, I am off to Israel in a couple of weeks to study Roman pottery at one site and to prepare artifacts for submission to the Israel Antiquities Authority at another. Some great Kindle deals today so I started stocking up for the long travel days and quiet evenings ahead.

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Kimberlone
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A somewhat uninspiring day was brightened by coming home to #bookmail!

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hermyknee
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Well, then.

RachelO I'm going to have to try and work the phrase 'inchoate heterogeneous conglomerate' into conversation at some point! 1y
AceOnRoam @RachelO 🤣🤣 1y
SandyW @RachelO You'll have to report back too! 1y
hermyknee @RachelO yes!!! 😂 1y
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k.reads
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Pickpick

This was great! I learned so much about what goes into making a dictionary. Now every time I look something up on Merriam-Webster online, it‘s like saying hi to Kory. 🤓📚

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k.reads
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#audioknitting and #tea on a lovely Sunday morning.

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OrangeMooseReads
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There was a note inside this one ☺️

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks Awww I love this!!!! 💞 1y
Lcsmcat ❤️ 1y
ValerieAndBooks Aww. I hope Marcia liked the book! 1y
Richryan52 Thanks for the like. I hope you‘ll consider backing it 1y
68 likes4 comments
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shaynarae
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Pickpick

For word nerds and fans of Mary Roach, this one is for you! I almost let my borrow period for this book lapse because I‘m up to my eyeballs in library books, but I‘m SO glad I decided to give this a go. It‘s so fun and interesting that I‘ve been finding myself telling everyone about it.

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vivastory
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1) A minimum of four times per week. I live 2 blocks away from a branch & I don't really plan my TBR. This leads to a lot of impulse visits.
2) NY public library. For some reason I've never visited when I've been in NYC.
3) None at the moment. Last night I picked up the tagged book.
4) I don't remember a time when I didn't have a library card.
#trivialthursday
@GarthRanzz

GarthRanzz I‘ve never been to the NYC Public Library either. But every time I think about it I see a screaming librarian ghost. 😊 1y
vivastory @GarthRanzz 😂 Completely understandable! 1y
britt_brooke I got my first library card at 35. 😱 (edited) 1y
Suet624 I get most of my reads at one of five libraries close by. I love being surprised by what‘s available and rarely go with a book in mind. Sometimes I walk down an aisle with eyes closed, run my finger along the spines, and stop when called to. I find the most interesting books that way. 1y
54 likes4 comments
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Booksnchill
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Pickpick

Kory Stamper is a lexicographer for Miriam Webster. Above is a screenshot of one of her many youtube appearances. She is a delight and narrates the audiobook of her work giving a behind the scenes look at the making of a dictionary. Fascinating and so many things I did not know! She ends with the email campaign started by a white nationalist talk show host against her concerning the inclusion of an additional meaning to the word “marraige”. 3.5⭐️

Booksnchill I recommend for lovers of Sarah Vowell in particular- very similar vibe! 1y
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