Singing Loudly: Drooling over Dictionaries

Singing Loudly

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Drooling over Dictionaries

I believe that there are many of us in the blog community who share a fascination with dictionaries. Amber, for instance, has discussed her fear of losing access to the incredible Oxford English Dictionary online site. My favorite aspect of the OED is word origin and the extensive quotations, so I too fear the loss of the OED. Thankfully, other bloggers, such as Mel, have pointed out that many libraries will give online access to the OED if you're a member of their library.

Perhaps a few of these fellow bloggers had dreams similar to mine about working for a dictionary as a lexicographer. In the Times Sunday Magazine, Erin McKean, describes the dream she had and the possible ways to get where she and work for a dictionary publishing house (reg. req'd).

McKean describes that there is no real certification process or degree you obtain to become employed with a dictionary:

there's not a well-marked route to actually becoming a lexicographer.

The answer to many of the questions about what to major in (linguistics? English? creative writing? maybe math?), whether to freelance or look for a permanent job, and if you should take supplemental questions always leads to the answer of, it depends.

The path to getting a job as a lexicographer is not a well defined path. In part this seems to be because of how few publishers of dictionaries there are in the world.

There are fewer than a dozen major employers in the United States, clustered in the Northeast, which tend to hire on a cyclical basis as projects wax and wane.

This suggesting that my collection of dictionaries is represented by most of the major publishers. However, it doesn't seem to bring hope for someone who is really interested in the field for employment purposes. My collection of dictionaries is planned and carefully considered, whereas getting a job seems to be more based on luck.

I found that lexicographers in this country do have a common qualification for the jobs they hold or have held: they have all been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

That's unfortunate, but McKean offers some tips to those who are really interested in finding a job with a publisher:

A quick trip to the bookstore or the library will provide you with the names and addresses of all the major publishers, or better yet, you can check job listings on their Web sites. You can join the Dictionary Society, sign up for its e-mail list (where jobs are occasionally posted) and attend its small and collegial meetings, which are held every other year. (The next one will be in Boston in 2005.)

The entire article is much more interesting than my pulled quotations. You ought to read it if you have any interest in the work of a lexicographer.


Post a Comment

the archives:

You are currently viewing a post in the archives. You can go back to the main page, the topical index or continue perusing the archives below:

Posts by month:
Get awesome blog templates like this one from