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Word Referencing the 21st Century

War Department Records

In the Digital Era, Our Dictionaries Read UsJennifer Howard describes next generation dictionary technology:

“…With the spread of digital technologies, dictionaries have become a two-way mirror, a record not just of words’ meanings but of what we want to know. Digital dictionaries read us.

The days of displaying a thick Webster’s in the parlor may be past, but dictionaries inhabit our daily lives more than we realize. “There are many more times during a day that you are interacting with a dictionary” now than ever before, says Katherine Connor Martin, head of U.S. dictionaries for Oxford University Press. Whenever you send a text or an e-mail, or read an e-book on your Nook, Kindle, or iPad, a dictionary is at your fingertips, whether or not you’re aware of it.

For dictionary makers, going electronic opens up all kinds of possibilities. It’s not just that digital dictionaries can be embedded in the operating systems of computers and e-readers so that they’re always at hand. They can be updated far more easily and often than their print cousins, and they can incorporate material like audio pronunciations and thesauruses. Unsuccessful word “look-ups,” or searches that don’t produce satisfying results, can point lexicographers to terms that haven’t yet made their way into a particular dictionary or whose definitions need to be amended or freshened. Online readers can click a button and contribute their own word lore, extending a tradition that dates back at least as far as the late 19th century, when James Murray and his team compiled the first Oxford English Dictionary with the help of thousands of word slips sent in by the public….”

Read the rest. (H/T James Neal)

Between the Codex and #tooFew, been fascinated with reference texts lately…

Image Credit: “War Department Records at White House Garage,” National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64, posted at US National Archives Tumblr