Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

What *Is* The Right Word, Anyway?


Whether you’re a writer looking for the right word or a reader wondering what that particular word means, dictionaries can be handy.

Still, dictionaries have been mere snapshots of an ever-changing language

In the previous post, Dictionary Evangelist, there was an entertaining video of lexicographer, Erin McKean, who thought it was important to have a dictionary to which words could be continually added. Do checkout her creation, Wordnik, and add a few words :-)

I use a free program called WordWeb on my computer (which, sadly, is only for PCs) that lets me check spelling and meaning by highlighting any word in any program or web page and clicking a couple keys, voila!

And, if you want to trace the historical meanings and roots of words, even though many dictionaries have some of that, you might use an Etymology Dictionary.

Speaking of history, and staying with English, there is the famous dictionary of Samuel Johnson from 1755.

Going further into history and delving into the trials and challenges of lexicographers, spend some careful reading time with the Preface to Johnson’s 1755 dictionary.

Care to share any really strange words with us in the comments?

Have any words you’ve created that you’d like to see in the language?

Any words you think should be banned?
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4 responses to “What *Is* The Right Word, Anyway?

  1. cmmarcum January 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Dictionaries always leave a little something to be desired. I prefer to pick-up new words from reading books, TV and crosswords. That way I get the new word in a sentence and in the context of a conversation.

    Most people collect $5 words, but I prefer short words that sound like what they mean.

    Words that I collect last week: In one’s dotage. Also I learned that confabulate does not mean ‘to lie.’ It means to talk casually–to chitchat.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Are You UP To It? « jeanne's blog…a nola girl at heart

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