In case you haven't heard, Merriam-Webster has a personality. The Twitter account of the renowned American dictionary is filled with snark, wit, and a good bit of political commentary. That last bit is sometimes delivered through nothing more than what dictionaries are famous for: providing a word's definition. Throughout the campaign and subsequent election of President Trump, the @MerriamWebster Twitter account emerged as a champion of the concept that politicians should be held accountable for their words. Perhaps that shouldn't have taken so many by surprise, considering that precision of language is the daily work of lexicographers.
Merriam-Webster's Twitter account has seen astronomical growth in followers over the past 18 months. At the end of December 2016, @MerriamWebster had 200,000 followers. Just four months later, that number has more than doubled to 429,000. That's an impressive leap for anyone, but especially for a dictionary that had just 60,000 followers less than two years ago.
From providing the definition of "fact" for Kellyanne Conway to defining "complicit" for Ivanka Trump, @MerriamWebster has been ready and willing to jump into the political (and pop cultural) fray. Here are 21 examples of how the dictionary's Twitter made sure that no nonsense in the language sphere went unnoticed.
1Not So Fast, Ivanka
📈'Complicit' is trending after Ivanka Trump told CBS "I don’t know what it means to be complicit." https://t.co/qE6UcB8pUz— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 4, 2017
Pols in the future might think twice before publicly saying they don't know what a word means. @MerriamWebster is listening.
2You're Not Special, TV
#2: Best Writing, where we are, inexplicably, in second place to a TV show. https://t.co/HABCG7bNMp— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 4, 2017
That's right. The @MerriamWebster Twitter feed was nominated for a Webby. Move aside, John Oliver.
3Let's Define "Immunity"
Retired Gen. Michael Flynn resigned from President Trump's administration, the first to officially leave the White House West Wing. Weeks later, he asked for immunity in exchange for his testimony.
4It IS A Good Word
It looks like Merriam-Webster was ahead of the game here, posting this just days before reports broke news that Erik Prince, brother to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, allegedly tried to set up a "backchannel" between Russia and the U.S. government. Prescience. And WHOA.
5What's the word for when someone promotes or hires a family member??
📈'Nepotism' is our #15 lookup right now. We wrote about the word when it trended in January. https://t.co/RRCoBE9jxA— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) March 30, 2017
Trump has installed both his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as White House advisers. In the word of Merriam-Webster, that's called "nepotism."
6Weighing In On The First United Airlines Controversy
Remember when United Airlines was only dealing with one major PR crisis after barring two girls from boarding because they were wearing leggings? Well, according to the dictionary, leggings are defined as pants.
7Donald Trump Didn't Invent "Fake News"
'Fake news' is a new term. That means it's only about 125 years old. https://t.co/obsCKNu3RH— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) March 24, 2017
History is what it is, and fake news has been around long before Trump.
8Pay Attention To This Modifier
📈'Vindicate' is our #3 lookup right now. (Not 'somewhat'?) https://t.co/pWdPRvEafN— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) March 22, 2017
After Rep. Devin Nunes said he'd been made privy to new information on Trump's claim that President Obama had "wiretapped" Trump and his campaign, the current POTUS said he felt "somewhat vindicated." Merriam-Webster defined "vindicate," but check out their cheeky comment on "somewhat."
9When Word-Nerds Disagree
ICYMI, Antonin Scalia had strong feelings about Webster's Third. https://t.co/wBklbEF29d— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) March 21, 2017
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia apparently took issue with the third edition of Merriam-Webster for its updated definition of "modify."
10No Emoji Required
Why be lazy and click on a pre-made emoji when you can instead provide the words to define said emotion?
11Hey, Oxford Comma: Step Back
Whether or not to use the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is a fun debate to get into with a grammarian sometime (my vote: use it, bud). But Merriam-Webster also supports the "Oxford" comma, so why isn't it called the "Merriam-Webster" comma? Could Anglophilia be to blame?
12Just The Facts
📈Top 5 lookups this minute, in order:— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) March 15, 2017
Those search terms kind of speak for themselves.
13On The Oxymoron "Alternative Facts"
📈A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality. https://t.co/gCKRZZm23c— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) January 22, 2017
The key phrase in this definition is "objective reality." Because if information possesses that, there can be no "alternative." #thepowerofwords
14Dictionary Dares You Not To Call Yourself A Feminist
📈Lookups for 'feminism' spiked today. It's "the belief that men & women should have equal rights and opportunities." https://t.co/Zjf7CAPUjL— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) February 24, 2017
"Men and women should have equal rights and opportunities." There's the definition of feminism. Perhaps Kellyanne Conway might clarify why she finds it "difficult" to call herself a feminist?
15"Military" Means Military
📈'Military' is an adjective, but it does not mean "precision." https://t.co/GCVtDdUbnv— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) February 23, 2017
After White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to argue that Trumps calling deportations a "military operation" actually meant something more akin to a "precision" course of action, Merriam-Webster was like, "Not so fast."
16Freedom Of Speech Forever
In case anyone thought @MerriamWebster only clapped back at Republicans, here's their Twitter defending freedom of speech... to THE ACLU.
17"Climate" And "Weather" Are Not Synonyms
Precision of language saves the day by helping remind everyone that weather is not the same thing as climate.
18You Guys, "Bigly" Is A Word
Trump's use of "big league" to describe how he sees some of his ideas unfolding favorably is grammatically correct. But when certain listeners (ahem) hear it as "bigly," it's worth noting that would also be a no-problem grammar choice.
19And Maybe "Unpresidented" Will Become A Word Someday...
Trump tweeted a message that included the non-existent word "unpresidented," apparently meaning "unprecedented." The Guardian got such a kick out of it, they named it their "word of the year." Merriam-Webster also responded by defining "huh." Nice.
20Fake Clappers Beware
If you're part of a group that's paid to applaud, you're a 'claqueur'. https://t.co/EX96vGLGDz— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) January 24, 2017
During Trump's first visit to the CIA, he received a lot of applause. After the fact, it came to light that many of those enthusiastic clappers had been brought along for show. Merriam-Webster's got a word for that: claquers.
Because we have the best words. https://t.co/1smwcGhBZW— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) January 18, 2017
Trump claimed he had "the best words." But obviously, Merriam-Webster has the real stake on that claim. And who could argue with them?
So if you haven't yet followed @MerriamWebster, I'm not sure what excuse is left. Plus, they offer the old school treat of a "word of the day." Double win.