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I love my paper dictionary (2017) (austinkleon.com)
96 points by bookofjoe 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



I’m old enough to have used paper dictionaries and yet I don’t miss them.

Today I have a dictionary of every language I speak in my pocket.

The serendipity of using paper dictionary exist online. Some dictionaries (like Merriam Webster show neighboring words). Others shows random words. Many offer to subscribe to a word of the day via email or an app.

If anything I find serendipity to be greatly improved by hyperlinks. The dictionary is this flat shallow lexicographically ordered collection of word definitions. It can’t compete with the depth of the internet.

Wikipedia is a lot better than any paper encyclopedia I have used. It is updated with recent events. And following links you can go from rabbit hole to rabbit hole effortless. I have spent countless hours on topics I did not even know anything about in this fashion.

I think nostalgia gives people pink colored glasses that really distort reality. I have not owned a paper dictionary I over a decade and I really don’t miss it.


Yet I still quite regularly refer to our Shorter Oxford (3 - 4k A4 pages). Usually after failing to get a correct or adequate answer online. It gives far more definitions, etymology and usage than any and every online resource. For dictionaries, the internet has no depth, just a barely scratched surface. Somewhat equivalent to a simplified school or pocket dictionary - at best.

I've probably spent as much time down paper encyclopedia rabbit holes as Wikipedia. Both have their pluses which can't be easily replicated in the other. Same for dictionaries.

Something that came up in a recent discussion on Encarta: I have a century old encyclopedia set - the fact it is not constantly updated makes it a fascinating piece of history. Sometimes with better - manual - shortcut ways of calculating that I never heard of in my schooling, and a glimpse of skills that have declined. Reading about steam engines while they were still cutting edge, etc. I've learnt all sorts of little bits of history none of the many history books I read and Wikipedia time I've spent have ever got near.

Having a snapshot is as useful, but differently useful, to having an always updated resource.


> It gives far more definitions, etymology and usage than any and every online resource.

But the full Oxford is online, including all the notes they use to produce it like sources. That’s far broader and deeper than your shorter edition.


That needs a subscription, does it not? What is available are some of the full entries for just a small selection of the words.

e.g. the word of the day on oed.com is "quarterstaff" which gives the full OED entry, but type or click "quartet" or the other linked words, then you're returned to the homepage, and a subscriber login pops up. There's a £90 instead of £200 for a year's personal sub offer on the front page too.

I can buy the Compact Oxford for that. After seeing mention in this thread of its tiny price on Ebay, and a quick search, I may very well spend £20 or £30. :)


It’s still ‘online’ even if you need a subscription!

And you probably have a full access subscription anyway, through your local public library, or maybe your alma mater if you have one, or maybe your employer if it’s a large knowledge organisation.


So

pull out dictionarybout of shelf, look up word

Vs

Find out which institution I belong to has access to oed (which you’re bound to forget unless you’re in the word smithing business and use oed every day) .

Figure out what contorted method this institution used to log in

Remember your usr / password

Reset usr/ password

Figure out what combination of special characters your institution requires for your password

Look up word

Doesn’t support Firefox/ safari!

Fire up chrome

What are the special characters for the password again?

Reset password, etc

I just went on vacation. As I’m heading out I grab my mirrorless digital camera. Then I remember I’ll need the charger. And the SD card is in the card reader upstairs.

So I said, “f*it”, grabbed a handful film and my OM-1.


The free-via-local-UK-public-library access is actually pretty pain-free -- you just click the 'sign in' button, enter your library card number, possibly click a link to tell it which particular local library the card is for, and that's it. There is no password. It's worked in Firefox since forever, and I'm sure it will work in Safari too. It then remembers you're signed in for a bit, and next time around it's even easier because your web browser remembers the library card number and can fill in the field for you.

It's a great resource to have handy. Personally I set Firefox up with a search bookmark so I can just type 'oed wombat' to look up 'wombat'; if you're not signed in it goes through a quick fill-in-the-library-card-number interstitial and then you're straight at the definition.


Interesting. I wasn't aware I could get home access via our library membership. I guess I just assumed I'd have to either visit library, or "virtually" borrow it like with CDs and audiobooks.

Something to look into, soon. Thanks!


...but I didn’t argue it was easier or faster.

I said it was a deeper resource available online. And it is!


Sometimes i think people here really forget something like 200£/year ($324 here) really does make it inaccessible to some people. I've got a copy of the Oxford dictionary I picked up for less than $20 at a used book store. Over $300/year for the same thing really is not an expense I can afford for the luxury of a dictionary.


It's not that it's unaffordable, it's the subscription as "full product cost, every year". I object to the sheer greed of that pricing model. I wouldn't buy a Compact Oxford book set every year, just as I wouldn't buy MS Office every time. That's the price that counts as it's the same content as the full multiple volume OED without the extra paper and bindings. Besides, Office used to get updated every 3-5 years, not annually. Online as means for 500% price increase isn't something I'll ever support, even if I'm easily able. :)

Much as I might like access to the full thing, the book might last me in the home 10-30 years, or life. Now were the sub £20-£30 a year I may well have, while the kids were at school...


Oh, I totally wouldn't recommend paying the subscription (those to whom it is professionally worthwhile won't be seeking my recommendation in the first place). But a significant chunk of the UK population have free access because their local public library system subscribes. That's even cheaper than a secondhand paper dictionary...


> i think people here really forget something like 200£/year ($324 here) really does make it inaccessible to some people

You can go into a public library in most western countries and access it for free.


The difference is a matter of getting used to it.


I have both the the full and the shorter (the New Shorter in my case) and I've found that I prefer the shorter over both the full Oxford (which I have online) and things like the publicly available MW. It's not a simple abbreviated edition of the full thing.

The full Oxford is a marvellous thing, but in the past decades, the New Shorter has grown to be what I reach for first.


> I have a century old encyclopedia set - the fact it is not constantly updated makes it a fascinating piece of history.

Absolutely! I've got a German encyclopaedia from the beginning of the 20th century, and looking up societal terms is fascinating.

"Feminism" is "female behaviour by men", and only the secondary meaning references the women's movement.

"Women's question" is about the quest to give those rights to women that are "according to their their ability and potential".


Aye, some of the implicit societal assumptions are rather hard to read, or comical from today's perspective. From the era when Western confidence was probably at its height, there's a presumption in everything that Christianity, Western society and values are the right ones. That empire is a force for good - but quietly not mentioning both sides, or the deprivation caused, and this right after the scramble for Africa. Though King Leopold's "Free" Congo is a catalogue of atrocity, that was infamous even back at the height of Empire building.

Yet see current stories on the Arctic and competing moves to develop and claim it, and it doesn't seem so very different, just who's playing has changed.

Then there's the extensive coverage of anachronisms that have changed hugely or vanished; like the hierarchy of flowers, class, the importance of the King's English (received pronunciation), obsolete medical treatments, crime and punishment and so on.


We can all only speak for ourselves; I bought The Compact Edition of the OED on eBay for a song (postage cost more than the dictionary itself). It comes in two volumes with a magnifying glass, and is now my first stop (ahead of the mighty internet) for looking up a word. Even when the word I want to look up is something I've come across on the internet, and I have the internet at my fingertips. I find the results usually to be significantly more satisfying than looking up the same word online.

I should say it clearly has a different mission, a different audience, to the typical online dictionary (although many online dictionaries do now provide the etymology as a matter of course, which is a big improvement).


That's the edition of the OED that I have. I think this edition is more useable than the newer 1-volume edition, it's a little handier and less unwieldy.


This is understood. That's why the featured author felt a need for the minority opinion to be expressed. There's a general point that needs support, perhaps.

Your criticizm in the end is ad-hominem. As far as the body of the critique is directed at the content instead, without adressing it explicitly, then perhaps because the TFA made an ad-hominem via proxy, without resorting to the meta-level to that you have taken it.

The argument rests on the fact that e.g. a news-paper article would barely invite not just readers' letters but whole discussions. It's rather quaint and not all that hyper. Thus it is kind of ironic and almost self-defeating for the article to be published online (online first I guess). As I have said, the trend is obvious and needs no defense.


Two points:

1. The experience of flipping through a paper dictionary or book is more-or-less impossible to replicate on a screen. Even the most hyperlink-heavy Internet article is limited in comparison to a book that can be flipped through instantaneously. With hyperlinks, you're necessarily limited to the context of the article.

2. Wikipedia articles are a mile wide and an inch deep and pale in comparison to an actual encyclopedia. Furthermore, they are all written like advertisements. This is easy to see on pages for cities and countries - the introductory paragraph is nothing but accolades, rankings, and tourist attractions. This is a far cry from an actual encyclopedia, which is about data.


> 2. Wikipedia articles (...) pale in comparison to an actual encyclopedia. (...) This is easy to see on pages for cities and countries (...)

I'm not claiming Wikipedia is perfect (they are not claiming this themselves) but in contrast most of the small cities worldwide are not even entitled to get an entry in "actual encyclopedia".


> 2. Wikipedia articles are a mile wide and an inch deep and pale in comparison to an actual encyclopedia.

Do you have any examples? Or is this just a vague impression? There have been studies done about this by neutral outside researchers which found that generally Wikipedia was more comprehensive and more reliable than other encyclopedias.


Take the Vienna page as an example. In the introductory paragraphs, we have the text below. While it isn't incorrect or false, it's quite obviously included only facts that portray the city in the best possible light. If the purpose of an encyclopedia is to present information in a neutral, objective way, this doesn't seem to fit the bill.

I say this as someone who likes Vienna and thinks the quality-of-life studies are correct. But this information belongs in a sub-header, not in the introduction of the article.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna

Vienna is known for its high quality of life. In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver and San Francisco) for the world's most liveable cities. Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second, behind Melbourne.[20][21][22][23][24] In 2018, it replaced Melbourne as the number one spot.[25] For ten consecutive years (2009–2019), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual "Quality of Living" survey of hundreds of cities around the world.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33] Monocle's 2015 "Quality of Life Survey" ranked Vienna second on a list of the top 25 cities in the world "to make a base within."[34][35][36][37][38]

The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013.[39] The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and sixth globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2014 Innovation Cities Index, which analyzed 162 indicators in covering three areas: culture, infrastructure, and markets.[40][41][42] Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.[43]

Between 2005 and 2010, Vienna was the world's number-one destination for international congresses and conventions.[44] It attracts over 6.8 million tourists a year.


And what does your favorite paper encyclopedia have to say in the first few paragraphs?


I don't have a printed encyclopedia in front of me at the moment, but for comparison, here's the Encyclopedia Britannica online entry for Vienna. For the most part, it is pretty neutral and objective and has far less marketing-speak than Wikipedia.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Vienna


When I read this Vienna article, I agree that it has perhaps a bit less marketing speak (although I don't think the two paragraphs from the Wiki Intro you pulled are indicative of the whole article) but it is not any less positive on the city.

In the linked article I think paragraphs 3 and 4 ("Vienna is among..." and "Viennese Lebenskunst...") basically read like they are from a Travel Guidebook on why you should add Vienna to your next itinerary.

I think it also showcases two of the major problems I have with Britannica and most other "old school" encyclopedias:

1. A general aversion to putting dates with facts. For instance the article states that 2 million visitors comes to the city annually. The Wiki article links to statistics from the city that put that number much higher. I understand that the 2 million number may be from some time ago, but I have no way of knowing. My assumption has always been that they do not put dates on things to prevent appearing out of date. They are really good at putting dates on "history" but seem to be much more hesitant on putting dates on "current" information which makes me think that a lot of that "current" information is already "history"

2. Lack of any sort of citations. I do generally trust Britannica, but it would be nice to get information about where they are getting their information.



I found almost all Wikipedia articles I read to be way, way better than the equivalent article in a paper encyclopedia. The most important lemmas get maybe a few hundred words in a paper encyclopedia, whereas Wikipedia articles about relatively obscure topics provide much more detail.


>Wikipedia articles [...] are all written like advertisements.

Editors do actively work against this. I've seen this template in the wild often enough: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Advertising


I don't mean to be pompous, but they clearly are not very effective. Every single article on a city is written with a subtle advertorial tone, whether to promote tourism or simply give the city a positive reputation.


Same. I have a nice Oxford, and I haven't touched it in YEARS. I mean, why?


No tracking, no dependence on power (I go writing at an off grid cottage), simplicity.

Lots of reasons.


I mostly use nontracking search engines, or the build-in dictionary in iOS, so I'm not super worried about the first.

To me, right-clicking is way simpler than pulling a book off a shelf.

Power could I guess be an issue, but I can't imagine writing at this point without using a computer. ;) 30+ years at a keyboard have done a real number on my handwriting, which was never very good to being with.


This highlights one of the impacts that the internet has had on our society; the tyranny of the search result.

Precise results to queries, or results wrapped with irrelevant out of context, spam or just uninteresting near misses mean that our explorations are stymied.

The monopolies of knowledge provision (google, wikipedia) also mean that narrow groups (either tacitly through algorithmic design or directly through editorial decisions) control the associations of knowledge. The concerns of the organisations offering the knowledge are also reflected in the structure of the systems provided. Google is a money making operation, children do not make it money, therefore Google does not offer a children's search engine (if I worked for Google I would be ashamed at how hard they make it for children to find things on the internet).

There are intentional manipulations, but these are not the fault of the internet providers (I believe, almost completely) and happened with dictionaries, encyclopedias and text books in any case. But what is new is the narrowness and exclusivity of information provision.


Can you give an example of how Google is failing kids' unique needs? I'm not understanding.


go to incongnito/private mode to get personalisation out of the way (I don't think that this makes a difference, in this case, but who knows!)

Search for hybrid car, ignore the privacy reminder as that's just because of private mode.

I get 4 ads. On the right there is an information bubble with images, a wikipedia snippit and four alternative searches.

The highlighted result is off the page on my browser - I have to scroll for it, it's a summary from "car magazine". Then there are four lines of "people also ask" and then the organic results start.

Notice, I have missed out the icons on the search bar, the menu bar of search controls and the report of the number of results and search engine performance (does anyone really need to know that google can do this search in 0.85s? Isn't that debate done?) And most confusingly the switch between the browser bar and the search bubble - your search is mystically teleported from one place on the screen to another, a violation of interface that floors children instantly.

Now - imagine you are explaining this to a six year old (the layout of the page). I have done this, and I was met (unsurprisingly) by blank incomprehension. I have previously explained (conceptually!) Newtonian Calculus to said six year old, and she got it (I'm not so sure I do, but there you go). We (the informationartiieee) filter this out, screen these complexities and dodge and weave through the spaghetti that modern google is (do you remember geocities, old yahoo?)

Now, we are not even in the zone of how do we frame the queries, how do we cross check, how do we explore further (although google is trying to prompt us/me for that) but the fundamental is that google is trying to be many things at once; it's trying to provide a console onto this topic, it's trying to provide shopping advice, it's trying to summarise so that we don't click further (is that good?) it's trying to prompt for other searches (which I posit is a self fulfilling prophesy), what it is not doing is delivering a kids encyclopedia or providing a diverse interface to a plurality of different types of information sources.

I can contrast this with a tool that google provides that I know that six year olds do and can use - google maps. They can find places and use "the little red man" to locate themselves and see what's where they are exploring. Hardly any explaining is needed.

Now there are a lot of queries where Google reverts to a more "information only mode", for example "where do butterflies come from" but this is another point - google's behaviour is wildly inconsistent, these variations are fine for you and me and our friends, but they are not for six year olds, or nine year olds (my experience is limited here).

I really find it interesting that it is a fact that the people at google haven't even made a tool that their families might need or can use. I am a technical person, and my family are pretty well smack in the google demographic, so I don't know what that reveals about how useful the tool is for people who are not like me an google people... but I suspect that it's pretty indicative that it just isn't as useful for many, many people as it really should be.


What is Google's competition like here? Sounds like Google should be worried.


lol.

Sadly, it's me who's worried.


This is the same reason I like libraries and book stores. Especially used book stores. You can find some interesting books at "random". Generally random of course. But these are books that would, 9 out of 10 times, never be recommended to you by an algorithm. Taliban by Ahmed Rashid was one such book. I found it late last year by accident at the library. Totally changed my perspective on the war on terror. A way better understanding on how 9/11 came to be (the book was published in 2000). That led to the past year of reading history books on various subjects. And I'm happy. While my amazon account only ever recommends tech and business books to me. Which all generally sadden me.

Oh plus, this was a few years ago, I road tripped through the Oregon coast. I went into used book stores and bought a metric fuckton of old school pulp fiction crime noir books for like a buck each. All published in the 20s and 30s. Holy crap, so awesome. Again, never would have been suggested any of those if I was walking around and picked random books to look at.

Random and physical is nice. Digital and "recommended" has its place. But the real world can't really be replaced.


My greatest regret with the rise of Amazon is the fall of used bookstores. No pastime compares to browsing a hole in the wall bookshop with creaky floors and narrow passageways where books of every variety climb the walls as far as the eye can see in all directions.

Though Amazon's policies are a mystery to me, I very much doubt they will never recommend a book to you that isn't still in print and/or available as new. I also suspect they'll downplay publishers or authors who have lost favor with them for some commercial or legal reason.

Personally, I hate having my view of the world curtailed by giant corporations whose motive is only profit.


I have come to the conclusion that digital/algorithmic recommendations will always be marketing influenced and lack the context to make an absolute guaranteed recommend. Random-physical and friendly suggestions are more accurate and reveal much more as they come from sources rather than a machine "guessing" what will work. Algorithms are also subject to poisoning. Friendly suggestions are subject to poisoning but the risk is of course much less.

TLDR; I enjoy the work required for discovery. For example, I'd rather cancel Netflix streaming and returning to Netflix physical for missed releases, hidden nuggets/gems, hard to find, and better consumption management.


I agree. But again, I'm not 100% against algorithmic recommendations. Same way I'm not always 100% for human curated recommendations either. Both have pros and cons.

What I liked back in the day was the original netflix recommendations when they first started. From what I understand, they did it where they matched movies you like/dislike compared to other people that roughly liked/disliked the same. Then they recommend movies and guess how you might feel over a movie you haven't seen. Those I have watched, but haven't rated yet, the ratings were pretty close to how I felt about said movie. Then, it always seemed like the end of the list of recommendations was an oddball film. I loved those odd ball movies. Always out of my "known territory" of films. 70% of the time, yea, never ventured to watch. But the 30% that I did end up watching were always worth it and never regretted. That's the system I like. A decent mix of the pros and cons from both worlds.


Related: anyone on MacOS, try to use the dictionaries built into the OS. They are extremely high quality and have surpassed sources I've seen elsewhere. Even for words in my native language I'll pick up a lot of interesting details and synonyms. And on top of that they have a lot of language-to-language dictionaries for anyone who deals with foreign languages a lot.

It's actually on my short list of things that make me want to stick to MacOS desppite everything


I didn't even know there was one. I thank you for that. Is there an API that I can hook into (I'm thinking emacs here). Maybe a Swift script calling this: https://developer.apple.com/documentation/coreservices/14468...


https://josephg.com/blog/reverse-engineering-apple-dictionar... seems like there's someone who outright reverse engineered the format as well.

Normally I would recommend going for something via Applescript but it seems like Dictionary.app doesn't expose anything via Applescript (though it totally should)


I presume there must be, since I use Scrivener and have a keyboard shortcut set-up for "Look Up in Dictionary and Thesaurus". Simply put the cursor within a word, type the shortcut, dictionary appears (then cmd+2 for thesaurus, if necessary).


Here's a great article covering why some dictionaries are great and why some are just boring. It also goes into a more detailed discussion of John McPhee (mentioned in OP) and what dictionary he uses.

"You're probably using the wrong dictionary" - http://jsomers.net/blog/dictionary


I stumbled across this article a bit over a month ago and it lead me to discovering the mobile app Dictionary Universal which allows you to search the definition of a word in multiple dictionaries at the same time. It's nice to see different dictionaries definitions of the same word.

The only problem I have with it is that I can't seem to find any legal copies of dictionaries to use with it in the supported Lingvo DSL and Stardict formats.

That being said, there are a few websites that allow you to add all the big names in dictionaries to the app. I just wish I could do it above board.


A paper dictionary has a massive advantage for me when reading: it's not a source of distraction. There's no social media on it. I cannot check sport results. I do not even think about being tempted because all my screens are not close to me.

I also find it quicker than 1/unlocking my phone, 2/opening the app list, 3/opening the browser/app and 4/searching for the word and 5/clicking on the appropriate result in the list available. But it's minor and I'm sure some people have quicker ways. The main advantage is simply that I have no access to the internet.


I enjoy using my dictionary as well, though I purchased it new at a chain store and it is somewhat lacking in cachet.

One thing I did do is develop a little script that puts 10 random dictionary words into whatever text file I'm editing, which has been helpful for brainstorming purposes. Several of my clients' ah-ha moments have been directly attributable to questions I have asked them due to these dictionary words. Plus: There's just something about coming across a neat word.


Information will always be better digitized, this is objectively the case. Whether you grow up appreciating ink and paper or swiping up and down is incidental.

This is just romanticizing paper/physical medium. Similar things happen when you google, you might not type in the perfect keywords so you get other results. This also happens when looking for images, you will see all kinds of related ones, and I use this for inspiration as well (not to mention services dedicated to this like Pinterest which serve this purpose specifically). I really don't get the attachment to physical medium. It's clunky and 100% of the information can be digitized. Now books as a decorative element in some room... that's good interior design.


My faves are the early Webster's Dictionaries (I have an 1828 first edition reprint, and a New International Second Edition, Unabridged, that was published in 1934 and lives on a library stand in my office).

I'm also a huge fan of the complete Oxford English Dictionary (the final arbiter of the meaning of English words) and although I'd like to have the full multivolume edition, because of space contraints I settle for the older 2-volume micrographically reduced edition that comes with a Bausch & Lomb magnifying glass that lives in its own drawer at the top of the slipcase; I won this as a spelling bee prize.


I think American Heritage is special case. I have had many dictionaries and the only one that is "readable" is AHD. I have the fifth edition and every time I look at it it just brings me joy.


This seems like a good time to endorse the "real" Roget's Thesaurus (currently titled, 'Roget's International Thesaurus' with "The Original Roget's" on the dust cover).

I'd wager many (?most) folks have only used a dictionary-style thesaurus or some online version. But, kind of like RPN calculators <heh>, once you master a real thesaurus it's a game-changer.

For those not familiar: all the 'target' words are fully indexed against the main section where Platonic ideals, as it were, comprise fundamental language constructs. Think: Dewey Decimal System, but for words.

Usage: locate the word you want to match in the index (which is about one-quarter of the page count!); find the section ID for the matching concept(s); flip forward into the body section to the numbered § where is listed all the words in that category.

There you find not just a handful of synonyms as you get from a dictionary-style but every word that is nuanced, colloquial, arcane, &. — they're all there. It's frequently in the dozens and sometimes is more than a full-page column. There is no comparison in the quality of choices between the two formats.

NB: my college roommate turned me onto this as a freshman and it's been one of my greatest research/writing tips ever since.


I'll admit I don't use a dictionary much when I am writing. Spellcheck has spoiled me and I probably limit my vocabulary as a result.

When I am reading I pull out the dictionary all the time (most often on my phone) to look things up. I prefer the digital dictionary while reading because it's virtually instantaneous and doesn't impact my train-of-thought as much as a paper dictionary would. I also write down at least 1 word a day that is new to me or is notable and fun. Most recently I've written down "autodidact," "epithet," "pithy," and, after reading this blog post, "proprioception."

I can see the value in using a paper dictionary when writing. I think I'll give it a try.


Price is a factor too. Access to the online version of arguably the best Dutch dictionary costs 75 euro's a year. The print version costs 180 euro's and lasts you a lifetime. Granted, you don't have the monthly updates they claim to do, but I personally hardly look up modern words so that adds little value for me.

For the convenience of a quick search interface I would be willing to buy an online version for a euro per month. For that price, the publisher would have earned more money from me than he has until now, since my print version is over thirty years old (and still going strong).


I like paper book references because when I use them, there’s not a permanent record made, belonging to some unknown group of companies, of the exact time and manner of how I used them.


I feel the same way about the encyclopedia. When I was a kid, I had to use a book to look things up, and oftentimes I would read a bunch of articles on the way to what I was looking up. The closest you could get today would be hitting the "random" button on wikipedia a few times before reading the article you were looking for.


In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he tells how he learned to read and write by copying out, by hand, the entire dictionary from the prison library, copying a page a day. (It's in chapter 11 of the Autobiography).


> convenience always ends up replacing nostalgia

I used paper dictionaries so much when I was kid but I don't find them useful today. I have so much information at one tap of my hand that, it is hard to see the benefit or the convienience on something that lacks almost everything.


A good paper dictionary usually has better usability than most Internet dictionaries. That being said, I tend to use Wiktionary quite a lot, but then usually use the sources it points to in order to verify the results.


The standard answer from my parents when I asked what something meant was to "look it up in the dictionary". It annoyed child me, but I think it gave me the habit of doing my own research.

I still have a dictionary now.


And paper encyclopedias.




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