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Library Events

iROC: Modern Lexicography's (Self) Love Affair

Oct 31

12:45 PM1:45 PM
Kaplan Library Room 218

Modern Lexicography's (Self) Love Affair

iROC - Investigating Research on Campus

**This iROC will have themes relating to human sexual behavior**

Please be with us October 31st when Peter Witkowsky, Division of Arts and Letters, will present Modern Lexicography's (Self) Love Affair

What do Portrait of: Peter Witkowsky you know about your dictionary of choice? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know much. According to Kory Stamper, a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (2017), “The vast majority of people give no thought to the dictionary they use: it merely is, like the universe” (p. 11). Whether their inattention stems from a belief that the contents of a dictionary represent incontrovertible, even eternal truths or from the belief that definitions might surely vary, but one dictionary is ultimately indistinguishable from any other. Too few realize, Stamper says, “that their dictionary is a human document, constantly being compiled, proofread, and updated by actual, living, awkward people” (p. 12).

This presentation will approach the subject of dictionaries from the vantage point of sociolinguistics – or, in other words, the study of language, social identity, and relationships. It begins with an examination of several definitions of the same word, copied from five dictionaries published over a period of 45 years. This is actually not much time, linguistically speaking, but because of the nature of the word 45 years are sufficient to trace evolving attitudes about human sexuality. This brief examination completed, Dr. Witkowsky's goal will be to put the definitions in context and to draw some conclusions about the dictionaries most people give so little thought to and to the complicated, messy, sometimes awkward world both they and we inhabit.

Dr. Peter Witkowsky is Associate Professor of English at Mount Saint Mary College. He received his PhD is from Fordham University, where his major and minor areas of study were 19th century British, 19th century American, and 18th century Literature. Dr. Witkowsky wrote his dissertation about parodies of popular Victorian novels. He has been on the English faculty and the college's "Director of Freshman Writing" since 2005 and is currently Chair of the Division of Arts & Letters.

Modern Lexicography's (Self) Love Affair will take place in Kaplan Library Room 218 in the Dominican Center. This event has been approved FYE credit as College Connection. All are welcome to attend. Light refreshments will be served. We hope to see you there!


For more information about this or any of the iROC presentations, or to volunteer as or recommend an iROC speaker, please contact the coordinators of the iROC program - Dr. Evan Merkhofer, Assistant Professor of Biology, 845-569-3368, or Jen Park, Assistant Librarian for Access and Outreach Services, 845-569-3546,

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The North Wing of Kaplan Library includes areas on the 1st and 2nd floors where books, journals, dvd's, and other materials are housed, including the Curriculum Materials Center.

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