Thursday, September 02, 2010

Oxford English Dictionary - Online Only???? -- c.anne.gardner

Internet may phase out printed Oxford Dictionary

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 29, 2010; 6:43 PM

LONDON -- It weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing. Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it's uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary's next edition will be printed on paper at all.
Ah ... the net has been buzzing with this news, and to tell you the honest truth, it's probably a good thing in more ways than one.

I am a word nerd. I was one of those insanely irritating kids who always scored 100% on their vocabulary tests and had a penchant for checking off the words she looked up in the dictionary. I have a paper dictionary in my office at home, one of those old doorstop collegiate dictionaries, and I have a small Webster's pocket dictionary and a separate Roget's thesaurus within arm's reach in my overhead cabinet at my daytime office, but to be frank here -- not Shirley -- I spend most of my time on or over at Why? Well it's not just because the internet is faster, and it's not just because if for some reason my spelling is a bit off that day -- it happens -- I won't be lost leafing through pages of bad assumptions. Those things are nice, sure: it's fast, it's easy, and it's right at your fingertips. Hell, sometimes, if I don't want to deal with logging on and then subsequently having to deal with all the advertising downloads on, I will actually use Word's dictionary and thesaurus. When I am editing, my Whitesmoke editing software also has a built in dictionary and thesaurus, but what is more important to me than easy instant access -- and should be to all writers -- is that these word repositories can be updated on the fly.

Let's face it; our language is a living language. If it weren't, the Chicago Manual of Style would never have to be updated. Then there is the space issue. How many people can afford the price or the space to house a 750 pound 20-volume dictionary? Don't get me wrong. I love the paper dictionaries I own, and when I am leisurely proofing on paper, as I am apt to do in the final stages of manuscript formatting, it's nice to be able to just grab a dictionary off the shelf and do a quick on-off without the hassle of getting on the computer. However, to expect a slim usable dictionary that changes with the latest and greatest stylistic evolutions/de-evolutions of the language is to expect too much. I swear slang changes just about as fast as a fly picking an apostrophe out of his ass, and when I want to look something up, I want it to be current.

I also, being a total geek, appreciate some of the other amenities an online dictionary can offer that a paper dictionary cannot due to space restrictions as in: etymology and various sample sentence constructions along with alternate spellings. If you are writing something in say British English versus American English, this can make a huge difference, and don't get me started on the All right versus Alright. Both of which are correct.

All in all, I will miss the paper dictionary, which will inevitably be reduced to common usage only, but I get so much more from a good online dictionary that I don't think I will necessarily be weeping at Oxford's print funeral.

So tell me Indie authors: Do you online dictionary or what? Do you have an online preference, and if so, why? is starting to get on my nerves with the slow advert laden page loads. It might be time to switch.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is Old Woman Reading a Lectionary By Gerard (Gerrit) Dou, circa 1630


Jim Murdoch said...

I have 27 dictionaries. My wife has a load too. But I rarely use any of them any more. Online is so much easier but I have no real loyalties. I just type 'define such-and-such' into Google and pick an entry.

I remember at school there was a copy of the full OED. It was locked in a cupboard. I could never see the point of it if no one could get to use it.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Lock in a cupboard, now that is pure sacrilege. Heinous! Utterly heinous.

27 dictionaries, now that is a lot of words.

I am doing a write up on Wordnik next week. I think it might become my new favorite go-to site from now on.

K.C. May said...

I used to subscribe to OED online - it's a fantastic resource for writers (though a bit pricey). For libraries and such that would like to have it in print, they should go with a POD printer.

DED said...

My Webster's is a mere 1250 pages and sits right next to my desk. It's 17 years old but I don't care. I love it. I use it all the time.