About Word Matters

Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is language.


Meet the Hosts

Emily Brewster

Senior Editor Emily Brewster has defined all kinds of vocabulary, from prepositions to politics to slang, and writes about grammar, usage, and language for Merriam-Webster.com. She appears in the Ask the Editor video series and is a regular guest on language on WRSI radio. Emily has elected to not have free time, opting instead to have two children and to co-own a small pub with an eclectic and carefully proofread menu.

Neil Serven

Associate Editor Neil Serven joined Merriam-Webster in 2001. In addition to his work as a general definer, he writes articles on word history, usage, and new words, and is part of the Word of the Day team. He is responsible for the permanent aroma of scorched Hot Pockets that we can never seem to eradicate from the kitchen.

Neil is a writer of short fiction and essays with work published in Washington Square Review, Catapult, The Smart Set, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. He is also a competitive candlepin bowler.

With his wife, Hillary Hoffman, Neil owns Federal Street Books in Greenfield, Massachusetts, coincidentally located on a much different Federal Street from Merriam-Webster. He finally stopped eating Hot Pockets a few years ago.

Ammon Shea

Ammon Shea has been an editor at Merriam-Webster since 2015. He specializes in writing articles on English usage and researching when words entered our language. Ammon came to lexicography through a time-honored (some might even say stereotypical) path—he worked previously as a street musician in Paris, a furniture mover in New York, and a gondolier in San Diego.

A native of New York City, Ammon still lives there, with his wife (a former Merriam editor) and son (a future Merriam editor). His hobbies/amusements include gardening, spinning wool, and powerlifting.

Peter Sokolowski

Peter Sokolowski began working with dictionaries as the first-ever French-language editor at Merriam-Webster in 1994, and he has since contributed definitions and articles to many of the company’s reference works.

Once it was discovered that he was less preternaturally shy than others on the editorial staff, he began answering questions to the press, giving workshops about dictionaries and the English language to educators, and otherwise speaking out loud on the subject of words, including as a roaming pronouncer for spelling bees worldwide.

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