Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Dictionaries

The #Danger of Being a #Critic


I’m writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else… The #Danger of Being a #Critic

I’m a writer; though, I’ve never been a professional critic (but, my literary criticisms lie strewn across my writerly landscape…); and, of all things, I’ve been extremely critical of many critics…

Perhaps we can avoid the dangerous territory of definitions and test the more solid rock of etymologies of “critic”.

From the Oxford Dictionary of English:

origin late 16th century : from Latin criticus , from Greek kritikos, from kritēs ‘a judge ’, from krinein ‘ judge , decide ’.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1580s, “one who passes judgment,” from Middle French critique (14c.), from Latin criticus “a judge, literary critic,” from Greek kritikos “able to make judgments,” from krinein “to separate, decide” (from PIE root *krei- “to sieve,” thus “discriminate, distinguish”). Meaning “one who judges merits of books, plays, etc.” is from c. 1600. The English word always had overtones of “censurer, faultfinder.”

For those who wonder at my avoidance of dictionaries and my embrace of etymologies, ’tis true that most etymologies lie in dictionaries; and, the etymology of etymology is:

late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French etimologieethimologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia “analysis of a word to find its true origin,” properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” with -logia “study of, a speaking of” (see -logy) + etymon “true sense,” neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true,” which perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit satyah, Gothic sunjis, Old English soð “true.” 

Anyone who’s just waded through all those blockquotes deserves to be given a charm against all critics…

So…

Last month, I read an article entitled, Why I Stopped Being a Critic.

A few excerpts:

“I grew up with a very critical father; and then, guess what, I became a critic myself. Not too surprising, right?”

Then, this brilliant revelation:

“…as the old Biblical adage goes, the son inherits the sins of the father, and I became a journalist and a literary critic. My job? Read books, find faults and pass judgment on them, in much the same way that my father and his father passed judgment. Ironic, right? In a way, I had become what I despised—a person who found fault with others and their works.”

So…

If you’re a writer (or, a serious reader), you may wonder what would become of the world if the realm of literature were to lose its critics…

A few more excerpts from that article:

“When I ‘panned’ a book—gave it a negative review—it reminded me of all the criticism I had withstood as a child. I thought about the author of the book reading my review, and how it had the potential to hurt that writer. All of this affected my spirit, and I began to think about finding another line of work.”

The author decided to write only positive reviews:

“Needless to say, my editors didn’t always agree. Any critic who only writes positive reviews doesn’t often develop a discerning reputation in our current culture, which delights in rampant and even vicious criticism. In fact, the most famous, celebrated and best-compensated literary critics today are often the savage attackers, the ones who write extremely negative and even cruel reviews.”

That author ends their article with this quote:

“One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.”

~~~Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 169.

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A Great Place for Writers (And, Readers) To Buy Professional Books


Quoted from the March post, How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?:

“I subscribe to the Oxford Dictionary Pro but their free online edition of the Oxford Dictionary is good, too.

“Naturally, the dictionary is managed by the University of Oxford—”It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest surviving university in the world.”

Oxford actually has 58 different services you can subscribe to…”

They also have a Book Store.

Here are the categories:

Those are from the UK site.

If you want a different country, go here and look in the upper right for the words “Welcome To” and choose your country :-)

There are two selections I’m drooling over (maybe someday I can afford them):

companion to the bookThe Oxford Companion to the Book

First Edition

General editors: Michael Suarez SJ and H. R. Woudhuysen

  • The authoritative resource on all aspects of the book throughout the world from ancient to modern times
  • A unique combination of essays and alphabetically-arranged entries, interlinked to provide both depth of analysis and swift access to information
  • Written by over 400 of the world>’s best scholars, making this the authoritative resource on the subject
  • Imaginatively illustrated with many unique and rarely seen images

* Hardcover
* 1,408 Pages | 150 engravings & black and white photographs; 30 line drawings; plus examples of typographical features
* 10.9 x 8.6 inches
$345.00

 

historical thesaurusHistorical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

With Additional Material from A Thesaurus of Old English

Edited by Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, Michael Samuels, and Irené Wotherspoon

  • A unique thesaurus resource – the very first historical thesaurus to be compiled for any of the world’s languages
  • The largest thesaurus resource in the world, covering more than 920,000 words and meanings from Old English to the present day based, on the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Synonyms listed with dates of first recorded use in English, in chronological order, with earliest synonyms first
  • Uses a thematic system of classification, with synonyms and related words forming part of a detailed semantic hierarchy
  • Comprehensive index enables complete cross-referencing of nearly one million words and meanings
  • Contains a comprehensive sense inventory of Old English
  • Includes a free fold-out color chart which shows the top levels of the classification structure
  • Made up of two volumes: The main text, comprising numbers sections for semantic categories, and the index, comprising a full A-Z look up of nearly one million lexical items

* Hardcover
* 3952 Pages
* 8 3/4 x 11 1/4 inches
$495.00

So

Go on over and find a few books that are within your budget :-)
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How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?


I subscribe to the Oxford Dictionary Pro but their free online edition of the Oxford Dictionary is good, too.

Naturally, the dictionary is managed by the University of Oxford—“It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest surviving university in the world.”

Oxford actually has 58 different services you can subscribe to

But back to the topic in the title—How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?

The month of February saw these new entries in the Oxford Dictionary (go here for the article in their blog):

appletini
Baggy Green
biosimilar
blootered
braggadocious
burrata
cane corso
cruft
dumbphone
feature-complete
flexitarian
FOSS
friend zone
hump day
metabolic syndrome
omnium
range anxiety
schlumpy
sillage
social sharing
SSD
touchless
tray bake
tweetable
upcharge
voluntourism

So, how many of those entries did you already know?

Did you take any of the links to check out Oxford’s definitions?

Here’s a link to a .pdf flow-chart of how a word or phrase gets into their dictionary

And, if you don’t happen to be able to access that .pdf (which can be saved to your desktop) try this link :-)
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The Importance of Words ~ What’s Your Take?


Not everyone thinks words are important—ever known someone who uses about 100 words and is usually very hard to understand?

How about the person who knows 20,000 words and totally confuses you?

I’m an admitted “word-freak” but I feel I’ve learned some practical vocabularic restraint—I love to study words but I try not to use the ones that “most” folks don’t know

So, since I’m hoping some of my readers will use the Comments to share their feelings about the importance of words, but I’m clearly aware most readers don’t leave comments, I’ll share a few links to posts in the Oxford Dictionaries blog—if I see in the Stats that folks have clicked on the following links, I’ll have learned something about my readers :-)

* A very, extremely, highly, really, most *unique* opportunity!!

* Kapow! The language of comics

* Boomerang vocabulary: words that return to their origins

* Why do some words have two opposite meanings?

What are your thoughts and feelings on the importance of words?

How big should a person’s vocabulary be?

Really, no Really, what are words??

Addendum—Quotes About Words:

All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions.
Albert Einstein

As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
William Shakespeare

Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.
William Shakespeare

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

Eating words has never given me indigestion.
Winston Churchill

Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.
Mark Twain

He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
Confucius
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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 world 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


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