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tv   Kory Stamper Word by Word  CSPAN  May 4, 2018 6:48am-8:02am EDT

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for a normal size word like a blemish it's a matter of minutes. five hours in i had finished the first round of boxes. the entries that take up most of the lexicographers time art entries that no one looks at.
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and say to themselves yes finally now i understand what did you get that means. in the delirium that sets and at the end of a project when your you are proof reading pronunciations for eight hours a day a little corner of your mind wanders off to daydream. your careful revision will somehow end with your winning the lottery becoming the best dancer in the room. but nowadays thanks to the marvels of the internet we know exactly what sorts of words that people look up regularly. they generally don't look up hard and long words. they tend to look up words in the middle of the road. some of the all-time top
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lookups are paradigm paradigm disposition you begin with. words that are used regularly but also in context the don't tell the reader much about what they mean. this also means that the smallest words most native speakers know how to navigate the waters don't need to figure out exactly what it means in the sentence you are as dull as a mud turtle. they recognize that it marks comparison somehow. is not good enough for lexicography. it's also an irony that the entries that ended up taking the most time are usually fairly semantically fixed. the executive editor for the american heritage dictionary says that one of the editors overhauled 50 or 60 of the
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most basic english verbs. because he did that they don't really need to be done again anytime soon. those probably the first of may have been done in 40 years. these words just don't make quick semantic shifts. in terms of overhauling take or bring or go if you do it once every 50 years you're probably set. is not to say the that they don't have semantically shifted all. they have the indefinite article a and one of her defining batches for the 11th edition and she found a new sense of the word. the semantic shift that they outlined in their overhaul is not new. her careful reading of the
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citations for a inter splitter and nature the new sense is defined as used as a function word. to distinguish the condition of a reference. with the angels dispatched in short order a career 61 picture. i was one of my most exciting days as a lexicographer for sure. the process was simpler than it sometimes is because i didn't have to go back and forth in my have about whether the meaning was already covered or not. it's just a matter of formulating it.
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no one pays attention for little words like this. they had zero impact on the way they live our lives. back to take. the citations thwarted. i decided to tackle the verb first. now when working with paper citations. it was the pile.
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i looked at the galleys. and then at my desk. and then begin moving everything. my first citation read this is simple. i found the appropriate definition. and begin my pile. i began to relax. in spite of the size.
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no different from any other batch i reason. my next citation read reason has taken a backseat. i tried substituting the definition. i scanned the galleys. and then put the citation in a new sense pile. unless when the lexicographer says unless.
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you should turn out the lights and go home. unless almost always marks the beginning of a wild goose chase. there is a reality to what words mean. when you're dealing with the little words. it depends on the contextual use. if the context changes so it is does the meaning of the word. the meaning of take and take a back seat changes depending on the whole sentence. this second use is an idiom which means it gets defined as a phrase at the end of the entry. i started a new pile. upon reading the next citation i was confident i have
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regained momentum. profanity in a clear fixed pre- dm. i can do this. only it's not a fixed idiom. like take a backseat is. to understand and make do or perform. i considered. i tried substitution. with hysterical results. this got me thinking.
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that has an originating point outside the speaker. it's a class on french philosophy. and then spent the next five minutes writing each sense number down on a sticky note. i sat back and paraded myself of it.
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my next citation read. that's not verbal use. someone has been in here putting with my citations. i will just put this citation in a nonexisting spot. there are no adverse uses of the take. i've placed in the first corner of my desk.
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this will only take about a week. my brain saw take about and spat out phrasal verb. they are two or three word phrases that are made up of a verb and preparation -- preposition that functions just like a verb in the meetings can be figured out. he looked down as a career. the whole phrase looked down on functions as a verb. it does not mean that that unit anonymously. was towering over but rather that he thought it as a career was unimportant or not worth his respect.
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i created a new pile for the phrasal verb. it's not a phrasal verb. i squeeze my eyes shut. to send them up in a fireball right now. it have picked loose a bit of information that fell neatly to the bottom of my brain the about in that sentence is entirely optional. try it. this will only take a week and this will only take about a week. they meet almost the same thing. the pivot point for meeting -- meaning is not take but about. at this particular use is just a straightforward transit use. to use up as a space or time.
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have been an hour and i have gotten through 20 citations. the pile of sand -- handled citation. each was full and each was 16 inches long. over the next two weeks. the strength of my last nerve was tested. it expanded as i ran out of flat spaces to stack citations. filed between rows on my keyboard. teetering on top of the cubicle wall. i still didn't have enough space. i began to put piles of citations on the floor. it looked as if it had hosted that neatest parade.
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when dealing with injuries of the size you will inevitably hit the wall if you had run or if you've ever tried to run you are familiar with the wall it's a point in a run when you are pushed or are pushing yourself beyond your physical endurance. your focus pulls inward. the hitch in your right hip that is probably because you didn't stretch but might just be a precursor to your lower body the ground had tilted upward. you are not euphoric or zen or any of the other things that makes a running look like.
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you are at the wall where you are nothing but a loose collection of human limits. i hit my limits about three quarters of the way through the verb take. as i looked at the citation i felt myself slowly and spooling and to deceive. i knew the glitch before me have to be words. but knowing something doesn't make it true. as i felt my brain a flip sideways one spot flitted across my mind before i slammed headlong into the lexicographer's fit of a wall. i thought i was good diane my desk and they would find my body under an avalanche. that night over dinner my husband asked if i was okay.
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i looked up at him utterly lost and said i don't think i speak english anymore. he looks mildly alarmed. he only speaks english. what does that even mean. it makes my brain itch. it took me three more days to finish sorting the citations for the verb take. yes i have done it and then immediately depressed i still have to actually do the defining work. i had decided to use the sticky notes to make changes to existing entries. make do or undertake did not end up getting a revision in the end. but a handful of senses needed expanding or sent king.
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i changed to put one self into a son, air or water for physical benefit so as not to encourage medicinal flashing. i didn't need to squint out a bit. it was late in the afternoon the sun slicing gold along the wall before i took care of those i decided to reward myself by answering the e-mail correspondence i have let accumulate while i had been years deep intake. i start afresh in the morning. the next morning i came into work and discovered that the overnight cleaning crew has decided to move all of the piles i had left on the floor.
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it was a cinematic moment. i dropped my bag and scare -- stared open mouth at the piles that used to be there. i realized i was too late that i was about to cry and if i cried i would most certainly make noise and bother people. i went to the ladies where i leaned against the paper towel dispenser and wondered if it was too late to go back to working at the bakery where i once had people throw cakes at my head. it is a steady plot study plot in one direction onward. it was doing no good standing there with my have on the cool plastic besides a few of my colleagues were waiting for me to move so they could dry their hands. i resorted the tiny stack that they left and papered every flat surface within 5 feet of my cubicle with science that's a do not move my papers.
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i said grimly in my chair and decided a little fun was in order. when you are john working on it entry the paper citations get put in one of three places. the used pile which are the citations that have been used as evidence for every existing entry in it entry. the new pile which holds the citations for each new sense that you drafted and the rejected pile which holds citations for any use his meaning is not covered by the existing entry or that doesn't have enough evidence for a newly proposed definition. they used a new a citation gets stamped by the editor who worked on the entry to mark that they were used for a particular book. it's an editor stamping citation.
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i took up out my customized date stamp and begin marking the covered citations pile by pile as used. is used. after the first handful i stamped a little bit more exuberantly. i don't a punching bag to pummel. i have no nuclear device to detonate but i have a date stamp and by the power vested in me by samuel johnson and noah webster i was gonna put this verb to bed. that small act of brutality against index cards marked the other side of take. after i reshuffled the citations from the floor. the verb went smoothly. i wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more. after climbing out of their hiding places they were very helpful. i teased a new sense of sense
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six as to assume which covered uses like she took all the credit for it and created sense 6g. to cover she took all the blame for it. a little split he by standards but in a distinction that my boss thought it was good enough to leave in. i came up with example sentences for more opaque sentences. i was suddenly able to see that take the plunge was a fixed idiom that give or take should be covered as give. these three piles of citations for uses that are kind of sort of close to the meaning to accept it with the mind in the specified way can be covered by sense 12b3.
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it has its own entry in the dictionary so i can happily hoist it on some other unsuspecting editor. it only took two days of scribbling and shuffling to finish the verb. i took no break for e-mail but went straight out into the noun. when that was done in mere days i was so pleased with myself that i pushed back from my desk left and right to make sure that no one was within glancing range and then punched the air and mouth yes. i marched my finish batch back to the galley table. i signed take back in. i have taken months of nonstop editorial work.
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in 2013 at the university of georgia hosted the biennial meeting of the dictionary society of north america and academic society for lexicographers interested in dictionaries. he joined a crew of us for dinner. we have the restaurant mostly to ourselves and talk turn shop. we shot. we discussed the differences between defining which is a historical dictionary with over 600,000 senses and assigning a relative light weight at about 200,000 sentences. while discussing this i announce to the table that i have done take for the 11th collegiate and it taken about a month. one of the academics at the table shook his head. and said wow. i revised run he said quietly. and then smiled.
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of course it took nine months in the oed run has over 600 separate senses. making the word take see my kids step. i lifted my glass of wine from the other end of the table and said here is to run. may never come up for revision again in our lifetime. [applause]. we have some time for questions to aid in the movement of the microphone i'm going to start on one end and move to another moved to another end of the room. folks over on the right anyone on the right half go ahead. wait for the microphone to hit jeff. i heard your interview and
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having to do with that very controversial word that you talked about i was wondering about a definition that i don't see very often. i went to a bunch of long line dictionaries and did not find that the n-word has a definition that is slave. do you know whether or not that is an apical definition for that word. >> i don't think that is an applicable definition for that word mostly because it's already covered by the existing senses which had to do with skin color and race. it gets into what is called lumping versus splitting. a lumper is somebody who looks
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at the whole span of the words used and says this wide range of meaning meeting i can kind of cover that into very broad senses. they look at the same broad range of meeting and it's going to need about 45 different definitions. everyone is a lumper or a splitter. i think frankly the way of the word has been handled it has been lumped because it's a really difficult thing to try to parse out particularly elite historical meanings of it were outside of that the cultural specificity at this point. generally speaking that particular words gets broadly defined when you start getting into splitting there is a lot
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of overlap in weird ways that you can't were moving the site. how it compared to your daily work and if you liked it and it seems like that. it might lend itself to a sequel. are you think about that at all. the process of writing the book was really different from the process of my daily work at miriam webster. and you you sit down to write definitions it is brain twisting. gut wrenching. it's like doing the process of
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writing a book is different. you write the whole thing. and get to say i don't know much about pronunciation time and have our pronunciation editor write that. i like you to define quick crypto currency. the process of the hard-won because i actually continued to work.
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i would start my morning doing and defining. i would take an hour lunch break and then i would spend the rest of the day and into the evening. after a few months i would come down to say hello to my kids how is your day going. i really loved it. it's not about dictionaries per se it is about a part of dictionary history about what
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it's like to define color. what makes the lexicographer up. i still can't imagine doing what you do. and how you could've possibly gotten there. it was written by the former editor in chief. the matter of becoming a lexicographer. the right place in the right
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time is inside of the dictionary's office when there was a vacancy. it's more like the black hole of publishing actually. there are only three formal requirements to be a lexicographer. you need to be a native speaker of english because you have to be able to be comfortable enough with the language because this will happen. to know when it's not quite grammatically right or just an extension of something. it doesn't matter. i speak some weird german dialect.
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we do have english, majors and we had had people who have studied art history dance, philosophy 16th century french i'm going through that list here. we seem to collect medievalist. we have a whole bunch of them. you could staff around the fair with us. for your degree. you have to have a good command of the general rules of english. the reason you have to have it is mostly because they know
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that you pay enough and have tension to. when do you use that. don't you and your sentences with a preposition. actually that's not how english works for most of this. even if i did actually start
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before that. before e-mail used to communicate with each other by passing notes to each other. enter office mill. are you handling the entry for block chain. i would also send that same science editor. it would go to the interoffice mail and pick up. that's what you need to do to do the job and do the defining part.
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i also think that dictionaries are headed in a really interesting direction. because language is headed in a really interesting direction. about public facing language. the whole universe can see whatever you tweet. as we all know from our president but it's private. you act as if you are only talking to a handful of friends. you see this really interesting and from alan. always been there. but they can't track with public facing english. it's a public-private divide that's pretty interesting. they are looking towards what
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do we do with that. and especially now our tweets part of our presidential record. are they part of this historic record. that seems kind of important. not all twitter accounts and not all twitters. the best answer is if you want to do this job if to go wherever english is going and maybe that means you study mod. i'm that person that is right on the cusp. that's a long answer to a question. by the book.
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i was curious about how many people do this. you said 45 was the biggest. a lot of it is done remotely. the industry is shrinking. there are 30 full-time lexicographers in the country. those are people that might have an area a area of the specialty. they do biochemistry. it's small. we all know each other. we've a biannual meeting.
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and the executive secretary. just let me know. there is maybe a hundred of us and that's academics and people that are interested. the number of people that do it full-time is tiny. they do mostly from home. all you need to do the job you can find either on your own companies intranet or lots of public databases now that you can use in defining. i was one of the first editors to work in tire late remotely. i moved away from western massachusetts 11 years ago. i've been working out of my home office for 11 years. some people actually really like going into the office
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though no one is ever there. they dislike the quiet. it's a different thing. you mentioned that you occasionally run into idioms. do you had one in particular that really kind of turned your head inside out. this didn't quite turn my head inside out but beg the question i now i think honestly at this point that the meaning that everybody has. the one and that all that all the rest of us use which is when something begs the question at opens up a line of
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questions i think that's actually more common. the general use is so embedded. it doesn't make sense actually. i only very recently figured out and i gave her my explanation. let me hold on to this tiny thing i think i know.
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it doesn't even have to be idioms. it just simple words sometimes will turn you inside out. on the fresh air interview i talked about that. it's one of the first words i defined. and ever since they critiqued my definition rightly so every time i look at it i know it's just not quite right. is it really always bad. even the things that seem simple. if you spend to much too much time and it's never simple. once you are talking about a mo commodious and thinking about how people have changed the spelling so that number two with text.
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at what point do those sorts of changes that are so common within the context. at what point did those sorts of things make into a dictionary. it takes a lot for those sorts of things to make into a dictionary. there are three criteria for entering. the first criteria is widespread a widespread use in printed edited pros. that undoes most of those. is not printed or edited pros. so widespread not just also totally widespread. i want to see something in the advocate. i also want to see in the new york times.
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sustained use so when someone words come into english it's not like it's a straight line up of use. it usually takes a really long time for those words to catch on. or the words catch on like that and drop out of use in a couple of years. it was entered into the collegiate dictionary in 2009 i think. but the word goes back to the 1830s. it just didn't have very much use. until the 1990s. for the words that were really popular. the skateboard trick it was
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really popular in the 80s when skater culture came more to the front. that there were the winter olympics. they wanted to see a bunch of those. the meaningful use. the number two can refer to the words to, two or two.
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even that is kind of a tricky thing these days. a lot of us get our information online. sometimes the stuff we read is not very will edited. there are fewer copy editors at the new york times. the dallas morning news. i might go to take a citation for it. that's been corrected in the afternoon. so even though we get all of our stuff online at so that barrier and the difference between edited publish pros and online pros.
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they are still trying to figure how to navigate that. i'm going to move over. who determines the wide spread. two things happen. there are two parts to it. the first is a miriam webster at least every day they are supposed to read. i'm a compulsive reader. here is a list of sources that we read can you pick four. yes i can pick 17 on the first page of a nine page document. it's not skimming because any
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missed the context of the word. your neck in a pay any attention to the semantics of the word. just things that catch your eye. if i see something that i am reading let's am reading the cambridge companion. it's a book that i did have to read at work. let's say i find teleology in that book and then let's say i
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might be a really interesting word. i can go to a whole bunch of different databases. it's not come at all. like a black chain is now suddenly everywhere. that's also know how we are looking for regionalism because it's one thing that american dictionaries are not very good at. most dictionary companies are located in new england. those of us who are not from new england who had weird words. they feel very bitter about that. but that's a great way to say how long spread. and to get a sense of the saturation.
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we all remember the 2000 election. the word of the 2000 election was chad. they are publishing jargon. it's not widespread. but let me tell you it was all over the place for two years around the 2000 election. and that's an instance where i can say how common is chad. i know it was everywhere then. that's kind of how we do it. sometimes they will solicit people in particular fields what our new words in astrophysics that we should enter. sometimes they will go through a giant concordance of words.
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with the in house database. particularly as the actual people doing the job. the actual number shrinks. there are tricks. we are still not very good at regionalism. a question about how the dictionary is organized and this is a question that came from my kids i cannot answer it. who put the alphabet into alphabetical order or why is it in the order at all. i actually know the answer to this. i will try to summon up as quickly as possible. basically if i remember correctly the english alphabet is based on the ordering of
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the greek alphabet which is based on the trust can alphabet. it was influenced by the peloponnesian semitic alphabet i think. they set it up a long time ago. and then there were certain letters that were added. i was asked a question in my first three marks --dash back three months at work. someone had written a letter on one sheet of paper that should've been a clue i should have just said i can't answer this i don't know. now you're going to get that. there were certain letters that were not part of the english alphabet or part of the latin alphabet. jay was added later. it was put next i because it
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was meant to distinguish between i. the w was also added later. it was added after the. and then what else was it. c was added before jay was added. kay was there. it was influenced i'm so sorry you guys. k was a transliteration of the runic sounds very obscene of
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the nerdiest word you could possibly know. blame the peloponnesian's. i'm sure they can really love that. my final quadrant my final group grouping any other questions. okay. we will start here again. wait for the microphone. here we go. how many companies are there that make dictionaries that are doing this work. there are a lot in the world. actually foreign language is booming if you happen to know about it. i can hook you up with oxford. all over the world people still use dictionaries.
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bilingual lexicography. in most of the european countries its state sponsored. it is sponsored by oxford university so in that sense we talk about traditional dictionary publishers. i think even that is changing. there is american heritage there is oxford north america. i think those are the only ones focusing on the american market. this really three companies that are publishing for the american markets. not many. and there used to be a lot more.
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random house shuttered in the '90s. the century dictionary which some of you might remember was like a dictionary that was that thick. it comes in like 15 volumes and has beautiful etchings is basically an encyclopedia i think sentry stopped publishing in the 70s. they don't buy print dictionaries anymore. all right. okay. everybody is worried about losing their jobs to ai. do you ever think it will be about that. language is a really complicated thing. i think it will automate some things. there are ways if you have the
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money and want to spend it you can buy programs that will thwart things. but even that is not always a good indicator. the parts of speech are just a mess. it's called an attributive and down. or things like lexicographers are the damned. it's actually not. that kind of stuff gets kind of tricky. i think language will outpace whatever technology i'd that
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they have to be sensitive enough to all of the wide varieties of english that are spoken but even just in the states. this is a great example. so i live outside of philadelphia philadelphia has the weirdest accent in the world. they have some really bizarre constructions and one of them is called particle dropping. my daughter does it what your homework a situation like done my homework. or i had finished my homework
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it is really common following done i am done with my homework. it also shows up in canadian english. i know all sorts of things because i ridiculed her about it. and then she wrote a paper on it. that is one example. it's common where i live. it snowed first-day spring. if your coding ai there can mark that is incorrect. but you have to head somebody. .. ..
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[applause] >> thank you, thanks for coming out. she will be right here to sign books for you. [inaudible conversations]
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>> tonight booktv in primetime looks at books on science and technology. microsoft pres. brad smith discusses artificial intelligence in his book the future computer. melissa schilling highlights the lives and traits of several innovators including albert einstein and benjamin franklin in her book quirky. jerry mueller reports on the use of metrics in government and education in his book the tyranny of metrics. booktv in primetime tonight at 10:00 eastern on c-span2. >> on friday live coverage of the congressional briefing on infrastructure from the national history center at 11:00 eastern

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