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Day in the Life: Merriam-Webster’s social media manager subtweets truth to power

January 27, 2017

By Shareen Pathak


The year is 2017, and the resistance is being led by a dictionary.

Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has become a delight in the months leading up to and following the election. It subtweets Donald Trump and his administration; it wryly speaks truth to power through cold, hard vocabulary.

For example, when Trump aide Kellyanne Conway mentioned “alternative facts,” it tweeted this:

But the woman behind the account — content and social media manager Lauren Natural — insists she’s not being overtly political. While the new attention is strange, it’s also exciting. But, she said, “we’ve been doing a lot of interesting things for a while. And we’re not political, so I hope people don’t hang around and just get disappointed after.”

Naturale does more than tweet; she also manages content for the dictionary’s website, which publishes over 500 articles a year, all about words. On the site, there are quizzes, short podcasts and and articles explaining words that are trending, such as “emoluments.”

But it’s the account’s attention to words that happen to be trending — that is, have people looking them up — that has gathered attention.

Before Election Day, Naturale said that the account addressed both presidential candidates: It corrected Trump’s usage of “braggadocious” and responded to Hillary Clinton’s usage of “demagogic.”

It may seem like there are more political tweets, but it’s not by design; it’s because people are just looking up more words Trump or people in the news like Conway use. But it’s hard not to think the account is making a statement, especially when it tweets things like this:

But Naturale said there’s nothing to it. “We’re a dictionary.”

Here’s a diary in her life, edited for clarity.

7:00 am: I have a wife who brings me coffee in bed. I’m not sure how I got this lucky. I don’t ask
questions. While I’m caffeinating, I check Twitter to make sure nothing exploded overnight and see how the previous night’s posts did.

7:20 am: The word “commute” is trending, from the news about Chelsea Manning, and so we posted about it as part of our daily series “Trend Watch.” Some people are wondering if it’s the same word as the “commute” meaning “to travel back and forth.” We answer this in the article, but I answer one of the Twitter questions anyway; it’s a chance to link to the piece again.

7:30 a.m.: Post the Word of the Day to Twitter and Facebook. We typically do this two or three times a day; the first post is just a regular share, and then as the day goes on, I’ll look for GIFs to illustrate it. A lot of people think I pick the Word of the Day, but we have a whole team that selects those. …read more

Source:: Digiday