By Alex Halperin // March 29, 2017
DURING THIS PERIOD OF EXTREME POLARIZATION, it may be some assurance to know that no matter their political persuasion, Americans tend to turn to the same dictionary when they need to know the truth: Merriam-Webster.
It wasn’t always this way. Since it was founded 189 years ago by scholarly textbook publisher Noah Webster, the company has vied with a number of competitors to become the authority on U.S. English, from the elite Oxford American franchise to Microsoft’s Encarta College Dictionary, available via CD-ROM. (Remember those?)
But once Merriam-Webster went online in the early 1990s, it quickly grew into the champion of the written word, boasting approximately 100 million views per month. And its reputation has skyrocketed in tandem with the popularity of its social media accounts.
If you’re one of Merriam-Webster’s nearly 400,000 Twitter followers, that may seem a bit counterintuitive. The company’s “sassy” tweets often read as spiky rebukes to the Trump administration, so consistently pointed that when its recent #WordOfTheDay was “furtive” (“done by stealth”), one userresponded by asking, “Holy crap! What happened now?!” Unbiased objectivity and partisan politics don’t usually go hand in hand.