A New Lexicon for the 21st Century

REDMOND, Wash., June 17, 1999 — English is a diverse and constantly evolving language, generating dozens of new words each year. For the 750 million English speakers worldwide, it’s the lingua franca of pop culture, international business and the Internet. But thirty years ago — the last time a brand-new English language dictionary was published — the words “microwave,” “Internet,” and “e-mail” didn’t exist.

Dictionaries have finally caught up with the times, thanks to the combined efforts of Microsoft and Bloomsbury Publishing. The Microsoft Encarta World English Dictionary, which will be released in August, is the first newly written U.S. dictionary in 30 years, containing definitions and references for hundreds of modern words such as “greentailing,” “chiphead,” and “splatterpunk.”

Soukhanov, a world-renowned lexicographer and “Word Watch” columnist for The Atlantic Monthly, served as the U.S. editor for the project, joining Bloomsbury editor Kathy Rooney to lead a team of more than 320 expert editors, lexicographers and consultants in 20 English-speaking countries worldwide. For Soukhanov, the project couldn’t have come at a better time. “The English language has truly become global,” Soukhanov said. “The reason for new print editions is usually new words and new definitions of existing words. With the emergence of new words and the opportunity to utilize technology and the Internet, the need for a new … English dictionary … has never been greater.”

The project started three years ago, when London’s Bloomsbury Publishing approached Microsoft with the idea of creating an easy-to-read and easy-to-use English dictionary for everyday language, with global definitions. The team spent three years using computers and Internet technology to compile, edit and research this comprehensive resource, marking the first time the Internet has played an integral role in such an effort.

The result is a complete guide to global English, featuring more than 400,000 references, bold items, definitions and culture notes, including 500 “Culture Keys” that refer to great works of art, music and literature from around the world. More than 1,500 unique “Word Stories” explain how words develop and evolve, offering a new perspective on everyday phrases.

Bloomsbury’s lexical expertise and Microsoft’s multimedia technology were a perfect fit, according to Microsoft product manager Mark Young. By combining their talents, he said, “the team has been able to create a truly invaluable product that no desk or computer should be without.”

The Encarta World English Dictionary will be released on August 4, 1999, simultaneously with British, American and Australian print editions. The CD-ROM will be included in the Encarta Reference Suite 2000, which will also include the Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2000 and the Encarta Interactive World Atlas.