Monday, December 10, 2007

how do you spell publicity?

Today's New York Times looks at a trendlet among dictionaries declaring a "word of the year" as an effective way of getting attention. Most recently, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared "locavore" its WOTY, and a staffer explains why:
“There are very few good ways to get publicity for a dictionary,” said Erin McKean, a lexicographer at Oxford. While publishers can rely on coverage for new entries in just-published dictionaries, some reference books go for as long as a decade between revisions. “We are constantly surveilling the language to see what new words people are coming up with,” Ms. McKean said.
From TIME's "person of the year" to the local sandwich shop's employee of the month, these self-declared weekly, monthly or yearly events nearly always come in for some reporter criticism--after all, there are more than 12,000 special days, weeks or months already on the calendar. (Today, December 10, has almost 30 separate designations, for example, including the Nobel Prize ceremonies and Human Rights Day.) My advice has always been to check key calendars to see how crowded the field is in your chosen day, week or month--and consider whether your special designation will really achieve the attention you seek.

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