The venerable dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster launched an experiment today that combines wiki-like interaction with commercial possibilities: it has accepted a joint sponsorship from Yahoo and Verizon Wireless to redefine the word “unlimited” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
This is the first step in a broader effort for Merriam-Webster to open their dictionary to editor-reviewed user contributions that the company hopes will “increase the accuracy, scope, and timeliness” of the dictionary’s definitions. The sponsored entries, clearly identified as such, “aim to enhance readers’ understanding and embrace of the change in words fostered by corporations,” said editor Michael Pangloss. “We expect a very positive response, and the sponsorship revenue will fund our wik-tionary efforts.”
Yahoo and Verizon Wireless, among other companies, have been working diligently to redefine “unlimited” long before Merriam-Webster afforded them this sponsorship opportunity. Most recently, Yahoo has offered “unlimited” email storage and “unlimited” Web hosting resources for small businesses; Verizon Wireless formerly had an “unlimited” BroadbandAccess cell data plan. Verizon Wireless was thwarted by the New York attorney general; by changing the official dictionary definition, Verizon Wireless should be able to resume their “unlimited” offering.