Erin McKean is a lexicographer who believes “the book is not the best shape for the dictionary.” In her 2007 TED talk “Redefining the dictionary” she explains that we use the word “dictionary” synecdochically. We use it to represent all of the English language when the dictionary, like a flag, is only a symbol of the language. “The dictionary” doesn’t contain everything and online versions are not much better. They give us very limited context and without context words have no meaning.
Watch her delightful talk “Redefining the dictionary” (16:02 minutes) and you may come to see how at times, as Erin says, “paper is the enemy of words.”
Erin McKean is currently the editor of VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly and maintains two blogs; Dictionary Evangelist and Dress a Day.