Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Online Dictionary For Word Mavens

In the beginning there was the Word.

But without a dictionary no one knew how to spell it, pronounce it, how to use it in a sentence, if there was another word that was its opposite or meant the same thing, or where the word came from. In short, the whole story of the word was unavailable to the speaker.
For the writer, fugetaboutit; tough enough to carve out those cuneiforms, you had to wing it on spelling and all the rest.

Thence wrote Samuel Johnson his dictionary. Then Noah Webster. The Oxford English Dictionary followed. (Yes, I know I’m leaving out the Grimm Bros. - yes, those Grimm brothers - Deutsches W├Ârterbuch of 1838, the largest early dictionary, and a bunch of others but I’m stickin’ to lexicons I can actually read and use).

Over the decades, however, the amount of info provided on a particular word in dictionaries has declined as the number of new words added has increased. Much has been lost.

For wordsters with a yen for everything you ever needed to know about a word, the good ship lollipop has weighed anchor and its name is Wordnik, a new online dictionary that aims to have it all.

Launched by Erin McKean, former editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, Wordnik is a word-feast offering a summary, definitions from dictionaries old and new, related words, pronunciations, real-world usage examples, etymology, synonyms, antonyms, cross references, and usage statistics. One of its great advantages is the example sentences pulled from sources ranging from Twitter to newspaper articles. It even includes photos from Flickr to illustrate words.

"You can buy a camcorder that is almost as good as a professional video recorder. You can buy cooking equipment for your home that could be used in any restaurant," she said in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. "We don't have the pro-am version of a dictionary yet."

Wordnik is her very promising attempt to provide the amateur and professional writer, as well as the word-junkie, with a modern tool to satisfy their needs.

Workers of the word unite - and rejoice!

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