Merriam-Webster’s digital avatar is a perfect ‘volunteer’ in times of ‘alternative facts’

Merriam-Webster’s digital avatar is a perfect ‘volunteer’ in times of ‘alternative facts’

In an era when many of us cannot remember when we stopped using the traditional paperback dictionaries, Merriam-Webster shines as one traditional giant that has recently reinvented itself on Twitter like a bad-ass.

What started as a reluctant, seemingly requisite creation of a the web version, has exquisitely capitalised on wit and timing, especially since the advent of Donald Trump in the last Presidential race. Lit Hub refers to the Merriam-Webster Twitter account as “topical, funny, smart, and informative while also being relentlessly irreverent”. The web-dictionary monitors its data about what words people are looking up and how much, and herein lie its timely interventions into the daily and the political. Most recently M-W is making news after the United Airlines passenger-dragging fiasco that has left the world annoyed and baffled.

United Airlines has been treated to some well-deserved flak on and off social media after the shocking video of it having an Asian passenger being dragged out by force, off an overbooked aircraft at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Sunday, went viral. “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” the company said in a statement on Monday. Merriam-Webster tweet-reported shortly after that the look-ups for the word “volunteer” had risen by 1900% since then.

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