Anne Curzan, Professor of English, Education and (of course!) Linguistics is the consummate public intellectual. In addition to writing a regular column called Talking about words for Michigan Today, Anne also has a weekly segment called That's what they say on Michigan Radio. We reported last week on her recent public presentation at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. This week, we feature another of Anne's public appearances. Earlier in 2014, Anne presented a talk as part of the TEDxUofM event. The TED editors was so impressed with Anne's talk, that they featured it on their homepage. Her talk has continued to be very popular online, and is soon to hit the 1,000,000 views mark, making it one of the most popular TED talks about language.
If you are not yet one of the more than 998,000 people who have viewed Anne's talk, take a few minutes to do so now. It is both an informative and entertaining look at how dictionaries are made, how word meanings come to be, and who "owns" language. Here is how TED describes her talk on their website:
"One could argue that slang words like ‘hangry,’ ‘defriend’ and ‘adorkable’ fill crucial meaning gaps in the English language, even if they don't appear in the dictionary. After all, who actually decides which words make it into those pages? Language historian Anne Curzan gives a charming look at the humans behind dictionaries, and the choices they make."