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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
pull out dictionarybout of shelf, look up word
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.
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.
Something to look into, soon. Thanks!
I said it was a deeper resource available online. And it is!
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...
You can go into a public library in most western countries and access it for free.
The full Oxford is a marvellous thing, but in the past decades, the New Shorter has grown to be what I reach for first.
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".
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.
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).
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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. In 2018, it replaced Melbourne as the number one spot. 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. 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."
The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013. 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. Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.
Between 2005 and 2010, Vienna was the world's number-one destination for international congresses and conventions. It attracts over 6.8 million tourists a year.
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.
If you start trying random less prominent (or non-European) cities, you’ll find Britannica’s coverege to often be quite limited.
For example, compare (just picked at random)
https://www.britannica.com/place/Al-Raqqah vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raqqa
https://www.britannica.com/place/Zhongshan vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhongshan
https://www.britannica.com/place/Wichita-Kansas vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wichita,_Kansas
https://www.britannica.com/place/Ulaanbaatar vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulaanbaatar
https://www.britannica.com/place/Lagos-Nigeria vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagos
https://www.britannica.com/place/Colombo vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombo
https://www.britannica.com/place/Reykjavik vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reykjav%C3%ADk
https://www.britannica.com/place/Tampico-Mexico vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampico
https://www.britannica.com/place/Belem-Brazil vs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel%C3%A9m
Editors do actively work against this. I've seen this template in the wild often enough: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Advertising
Lots of reasons.
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.
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.
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.
Sadly, it's me who's worried.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's actually on my short list of things that make me want to stick to MacOS desppite everything
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)
"You're probably using the wrong dictionary" - http://jsomers.net/blog/dictionary
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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 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.
I still have a dictionary now.