Monday, October 24, 2011

I have a lexicographical dream

I came across this video on Ted the other day, which I label a sort of "I have a lexicographical dream" speech:

Do I even need to say how much I adore Erin McKean after watching it? Students who've taken any of my classes know that my dream job is that of a lexicographer, and she made the job sound even more amazing than I already thought it was. She has an interesting question that doesn't quite get answered (nor could it in only 15 minutes) about what the dictionary should be in terms of format and usefulness. It sounds like she leans more towards a corpus format with the ability to search for a particular word and see examples of its uses in actual written or spoken language data. However, it would need to be more than that because dictionary users would still need a sort of summary to provide the overall theme of data examples, most common definitions, and usage notes for the words. There must be a better way to make the dictionary so it can be more useful, but, wow, that's a daunting task to compile examples, usage notes, pronunciation, and more, especially if you're trying to do that for every word in the English language.

I've seen several online and electronic dictionaries that are trying to become more than just a paper dictionary on screen, such as Wordnik, but I haven't seen one that does it all. Earlier I wrote a post about dictionary and word apps for the iPhone/iPad, and I still use all those apps because not a single one has everything I want. Each one has at least one unique feature that makes it so I have nine apps and three bookmarks for online dictionaries on my iPhone. Have you found any one website or app that is your one go-to source for your electronic dictionary needs?

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