What Makes a Word “Real”?

This video is fantastic.

I love the moment when she asks, “Who regularly refers to a dictionary either in print or online?” Almost every hand in the audience goes up. Then she asks, “Who has ever looked to find out the editor of a dictionary?” A lot fewer hands. Mine definitely went up. I’ve even blogged about usage panels.

And I still say, like, again, that working to “get” the English language and to understand language change will save you from a lot of silly mistakes in your Bible interpretation. Because Greek changed just like English; it was spoken by the equivalents of newscasters and busboys, heads of state and tails of state—just like English. If you “get” English, that should help you “get” Greek and Hebrew.

HT: Dustin Battles

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. David Lowry on November 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I’m getting an error for that version of the video. Here’s the YouTube one:

  2. mlward on November 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks, Dave! Enjoy, everybody! This woman is an expert popularizer; she knows her stuff and found rhetorically winsome and engaging ways to present it to an educated audience that is nonetheless unacquainted with the work of a usage panel. A lot of people in that audience, if my experience serves me, would have objected to her ideas if presented in a less engaging way. People just won’t grab on to the basic ideas of language change. They resist them tooth and nail!

    I still want to get onto the AHD Usage Panel… I envy her.

  3. Bill Lowry on November 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Hey, I’ll put in a good word for you, Bro, so you can get panelized!

  4. What the Dictionary Taught Me About Bible Study on November 26, 2014 at 1:02 am

    […] online. I almost always skip them when people link to them. But when blogger Mark Ward says, “This video is fantastic,” I pay attention. Mark shares my love for linguistics and for careful, contextual Bible […]

  5. […] What Makes a Word “Real”? A fascinating TED Talk by Anne Curzan, English professor at the University of Michigan and member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel […]

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