Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

A Love Affair With Words . . .

A recent survey here showed that folks wanted posts on Writing first, then Publishing, then Reading. Of course, words are used in all three :-)

And, since my favorite word is “word”, one could expect that when I was growing up dictionaries and thesauruses were some of my best friends

Thing is, there are dictionaries and there are Dictionaries (same with those synonym-thingie books).

I recently let myself be influenced by Erin McKean, who’s been talked about here before.

I even did a calculation of my small budget and determined I could float $50 on my credit card for the few extra months it would take to pay off a new expense

I paid for a year’s subscription to Oxford Dictionaries Pro.

That last link actually leads you to Oxford Dictionaries (where you can use some of their wonderful features) and this link will let you subscribe to the Pro edition.

OK, I’m going to give you some reasons to consider parting with half-a-hundred-per-year but, in case you could care less, there’s a totally cool video down at the bottom of this post :-)

I should point out that the free edition does let you choose between U.S. English and World English, it does have articles on Better Writing—spelling, grammar, etc.—along with Learner’s Dictionaries and Word Puzzles; but, there’s no linked thesaurus and the writing tips are minimal (but, still, helpful).

So, the Pro Edition:

* Go from a dictionary entry straight to the thesaurus entry or vise versa.

* Browse the dictionary in various categories: Subject, Meaning, People & Places, Usage, Region, and Word Class.

* There are 1.9 million Example Sentences (fully searchable).

* It’s updated every quarter.

* Plus:

Language resources

  • Searchable complete versions of New Hart’s Rules, Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and Garner’s Modern American Usage
  • Specialist dictionaries for writers and editors include New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, and Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage
  • Link directly from dictionary headwords to relevant chapters or entries in the Writers and Editors sections
  • Comprehensive Writing Skills including grammar and punctuation where good writing starts, style and usage to write effectively and create the right impression, and quick spelling tips
  • Use the Vocabulary Builder to enrich creative writing

* And, if you’re a librarian, there’s even more :-)

I’ll share one use I’ve made of this radically cool dictionary.

I have an excellent friend who lives in Australia (I’m in the U.S.) and I did a search that filtered the dictionary for Australian, Informal, Nouns for the words “man” and “woman” (the other Country Filters are British, Canadian, Indian English, Irish English, North American, Northern English, New Zealand, Scottish, South African, and US; the other Usage Filters are archaic, dated, derogatory, dialect, euphemistic, figurative, formal, historical, humorous, literary, rare, and technical; and, the other Word Class Filters are adjective, adverb, verb, abbreviation, conjunction, contraction, combining form, determiner, exclamation, plural noun, predeterminer, prefix, preposition, pronoun, and suffix).

There was one word for women that my friend said she’d never heard used

She even checked a well-known, specifically Australian dictionary

She mentioned another, related word that she’s heard used and the dictionary had it defined but didn’t say it was Australian usage

We had a lively discussion of the whys and where-fors of which words end up in which dictionaries

She’s going to survey her writers’ group and I’m eager to hear what they say :-)

As far as what words end up in which dictionaries and which dictionaries are best suited for certain uses, plus lots of other mega-cool lexicographical information (delivered with compelling style) check out this video of Erin McKean (former principal editor of one of Oxford’s dictionaries) as she talks to the folks at Google about her profession

Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

11 responses to “A Love Affair With Words . . .

  1. Simone Benedict June 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Now that is fascinating! Was the word your friend in Australia wasn’t familiar with, one used in the states? I have one of those nouns for men I’ve been trying to wrangle for a few weeks. Once I get a real handle on its meaning and context, I will be using it in some fiction piece or another. Guaranteed.


    • Alexander M Zoltai June 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      It does seem to be used in America, Simone; but, there’s even some possible debate about that when I access other dictionaries

      The video in this post really gets into all the amazing, tedious things dictionary-makers have to deal with.


  2. Simone Benedict June 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I was thinking…a title I like for the short story I’m writing is “Annie Battleaxe and the Bad Omen.” What do you think?


  3. Once June 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Yes, well, anglophones (as English-speaking Canadians are called here in Canada and in particular in the provinces of Québec and much of Ontario from Toronto west to the provincial border) throughout the world are both cursed and blessed with a language that defines its words by poll, as opposed to by committee or linguistic academic elite. We are cursed because the feeling of change and/or dropping of standards can be somewhat insecure at times; we are blessed because it freely adopts foreign words and phrases which is a healthy habit when it comes to growth and serious industry. When I first began teaching, it was considered then to have retained only 40% of its original German (Anglo-Saxon) content and a full and ever-growing 60% foreign content, and at the present rate, with it’s world-wide, ubiquitous use, God knows what it will contain by the end of this century.


    • Alexander M Zoltai June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Fascinating to me, since cursed and blessed is just what I feel as a Wordsmith; though, my 40/60 is 40% cursed in my obsession in getting the nebulous and feeling-charged thoughts I constantly have into words on a page and 60% blessed because I can pass my words to others I respect, to give me their counsel—then back to the 40, then the 60—repeat till I must release the words into the wild

      So sorry, John, I can’t find time to pay more attention to the words you produce :-(


  4. martinaseveckepohlen June 12, 2012 at 3:27 am

    The German language has adopted and incorporated words from other languages. For centuries French was considered the cool language, French (of sorts .-)) was spoken at the courts of Germany until poets rediscovered and developed German. After World War I German was again cleansed of French words, this time for political reasons. Austrian and Swiss German use far more French words, they have lots of every day words that are lost to the language in Germany. Nowadays English words come up everywhere, in some cases only here. Does the “soft drink” exist outside Germany?


  5. Simone Benedict June 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Well, I’d rather liked the name for a character until I looked into it. I’m glad I did since it appears it isn’t original and the ‘meaning,’ which I assume is archaic, doesn’t work for my character. Goodness gracious, words can carry quite a punch, huh?

    Martina’s bringing up soft drink is a good example. I’d always called it pop. On the eastern side of the U.S., nobody ever knew what I was talking about so I began calling it soda. :-)


  6. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #21 — The Book Designer

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