It's in the dictionary = 23,800 hits
It's in a dictionary = 88 hits
In September, in a Mediabistro class I sometimes teach, I mentioned some disagreements between dictionaries. Students were shocked. They hadn't known that dictionaries disagreed with each other. They especially hadn't known that two dictionaries containing the name "Webster" — such as "Merriam-Webster" and "Webster's New World" — could disagree.
Like so many other people I've encountered, they thought a dictionary is a dictionary is a dictionary — it's all "THE dictionary."
I think that, in our brave new marketing-obsessed world, this is becoming a problem. It creates an incentive for attention-seeking lexicographers to make bad choices. Take, for example, yesterday's Comcast news headline: 'Meh': Apathetic expression enters dictionary.
I learned about this news story on an Internet message board on which a user announced that the word was now in "the dictionary." But it's not. It's in A dictionary — Collins English Dictionary — whose publishers, I bet, sent out a press release announcing the sassy new addition.
If more people realized just how different dictionaries are, dictionary makers would not be awarded the instant clout they now have. Fewer people would accept any one dictionary's word as gospel. And there would be less incentive to eschew serious lexicography in favor of press-release-driven, headline-seeking dictionary additions.
I'm not saying "meh" is a bad word to include in a dictionary. Personally, I like it. As I've discusssed before, I just worry that Collins is part of a trend in which ethical and scholarly lexicography is being undermined by PR whoring.