Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsHi erm today I'm talking to Jane Solomon, Jane is a lexicographer and she works for dictionary.com in California. Welcome Jane. Thanks for joining us. Now dictionaries have been expanding their scope in recent years erm to include some completely new types of information. Could you tell us a little about what dictionary.com is doing in this regard?

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 secondsOf course, one way we have expanded our scope is that now we’re including lexicographical information about memes so an example of that is that this is fine dog, this is a, this is from a web comic, its six panels but only two panels really have been memified, erm it’s a dog sitting in a burning room and there's a warm beverage on the table and the dog is saying this is fine and so this is used a lot to communicate and as a reaction to things on the internet so its important to know what it means.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 secondsAnother example is that we have been adding some pop culture references from movies and TV and that sort of thing, so an example of that is the word Hufflepuff what does it mean if someone calls you a Hufflepuff. Now we are talking about this in the context of new items to be treated by lexicographers but if you think about it there's lots of examples of this in dictionaries already. For example, the word Scrooge from a Christmas Carol, what does it mean if someone calls you a Scrooge? So, I see this is as sort of continuing the tradition of lexicography. Yeah very much so I think that’s right.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsNow one of the interesting innovations you’ve made at dictionary.com Jane which some people might find controversial is including and explaining emojis in the dictionary. Could you tell us how that works and why you have done it? Erm well whether or not you think emojis should be in a dictionary we are not actually the first dictionary to have started thinking about emoji. In 2015 Oxford named the face with tears of joy emoji as the word of the year. So, lexicographers are thinking about emoji and there's actually a sophisticated linguistic system in the way that people are using emoji and that’s something that we take very seriously at dictionary.com.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 secondsEmoji are a very real way that people are communicating and who better to be thinking about that then lexicographers so a few examples of this, emoji are often used as tone markers so you might see an emoji at the end of the sentence and you wouldn’t know until you see the emoji that that sentence is supposed to be read as sarcastic. The face with tears of joy or the upside down smiley face can do that or help that.

Skip to 3 minutes and 1 secondAnother way emoji is used are as intensifiers, so if you have one face of tears of joy it means one thing but if you have three or five or ten erm that’s an intensified emotion so that’s really interesting how people are using emoji, there's a system there. Another example of an interesting way people are using emoji is when emoji take on canonised non-literal meanings so a very good example of this is the goat emoji which was first approved probably only in the context of the animal but has been used online in chalkboard to the initialism GOAT which stands for greatest of all time so you often see this referencing a celebrity and that’s a very exciting thing that’s happening with emoji.

Skip to 3 minutes and 54 secondsYou will see so and so is the goat and sometimes it will be spelt out and sometimes it will just be the emoji. Yeah yeah that, this is really great and it will be very interesting to see how other dictionaries respond to these kind of developments going forward. So, thanks very much for talking to us again Jane and goodbye, thank you. Bye.

What else could dictionaries include?

In this interview with Michael Rundell, lexicographer Jane Solomon discusses recent innovations at dictionary.com.

These include dictionary coverage of contemporary cultural references (like ‘Hufflepuff’), memes (like ‘This is Fine’), and especially emoji (including the ‘goat’ or ‘GOAT’ emoji), raising the question of whether these are appropriate items for a dictionary to describe.

Your task

Watch Michael Rundell’s interview with lexicographer Jane Solomon and take notes on dictionary.com’s recent innovations.

Can you think of other types of information which dictionaries could include?

Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Further reading

You can read an article in Time magazine called ‘A major dictionary has officially added emoji’, which discusses dictionary.com’s decision to include emoji.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding English Dictionaries

Coventry University