Merriam-Webster’s social media game is strong — their Twitter feed, for example, has been widely praised everywhere from NPR to Vogue. Although the return on investment (ROI) for such efforts is unclear (is the snark leading to higher rates of dictionary purchase/usage?) there’s also some great educational value offered in terms of learning new words. Similarly, Merriam-Webster’s video series has provided some interesting gems, including the clip below on the publisher’s “Backward Index”.

Basically a card catalog of every word in the dictionary spelled backwards, the Index offered a solution for editorial problems in a pre-digital era, particularly for finding related words or rhymes. It also offered a very practical workplace solution, which you’ll find out at video’s end.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


1 Thought on "The Backward Index — A Clever Pre-Digital Dictionary Hack"

I am reminded of when vaudeville and TV comedian Professor Backwards was murdered and Saturday Night Live news host Chevy Chase made it a too-soon joke:

“Well, the popular TV personality known as Professor Backwards was slain in Atlanta yesterday, by three masked gunmen. According to reports, neighbors ignored the Professor’s cries of “Pleh! Pleh!” [ the audience laughs and groans ] I’m sorry! “

Comments are closed.