[By Jennifer Hartman]

Noah Webster was an innovator. In 1806, he published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. He spent the next two decades toiling to standardize American speech, ultimately learning 26 languages along the way. The most recent edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary contains some 470,000 entries. But how does a nearly 200-year-old brand stay current and fresh? Distill all that language down to 140 characters and add a dash of sass.

He was trying for braggadocio.”

The Twitterverse was already on fire on the night of the first 2016 United States presidential debate. According to Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio, it was, in fact, the most tweeted debate ever. Some viewers tweeted about the actual substance of the evening’s clash between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Many viewers, meanwhile, turned to the website of Merriam-Webster for assistance with the keywords being bounced around. Now, it would be a gross understatement to say that Merriam-Webster has social media savvy.  Aside from continually populating their contemporary website with engaging content, they tweet, and occasionally they do so with more than a faint hint of snark. Mid-debate, when Trump said he did not mean to sound “braggadocious” when speaking about his wealth and business acumen, Merriam-Webster dropped this gem:

merriam-webster-trump-braggadocio

This tweet stole the show. Merriam-Webster.com site searches for “braggadocious” increased by more than 15,000%, their Twitter account gained thousands of followers overnight, and Katy Perry referred to them as “the Bible”. Meghan Lunghi, director of marketing at Merriam-Webster, said that live-tweeting during the first two presidential debates was a collaborative effort consisting of “frantically looking stuff up and trying to get it into 140 characters before everyone else had already moved on.” Their tweets were posted within a minute of each comment, “which almost felt too slow,” she said.

Words matter (Clinton said so herself), and Merriam-Webster are masters of this domain. Who will win the debate on Wednesday? Will it be Clinton, or Trump? My eye is on @Merriam-Webster.

(Photo by Jennifer Hartman)

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