I don’t remember my first dictionary. Maybe it was the great big one that stood on a stand in a corner of the living room.
I suppose I had a dictionary geared for first graders when I began to really read.
My mom and dad read lots and I know I was encouraged to look up words I didn’t recognize. In fact, I remember what a pain it seemed to be back then. Until I began to understand the new word that is. Then I was delighted.
Like many I learned to appreciate many of the words that came before and after the one I sought. And I wasn’t beyond occasionally opening up a dictionary at random to see what I’d find.
I’ve packed around a red Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and a Roget’s Thesaurus since college days. They still sit on a shelf, unused but kept in case the electricity goes off I suppose. I treasured a copy of the two volume Abridged Oxford Dictionary, cuddled in an official book box with a drawer for the magnifying glass because the type was so small. I’m sorry it’s gone and I don’t remember how I came not to have it.
I rejected the first electronic dictionaries
Although I was quite taken with computers that would check my spelling, the first electronic dictionaries left me cold. The programs were real kludges and took forever to load. Often the word I was looking for was missing totally. The stand-alone electronic dictionaries didn’t impress me either. I kept using my hard bound dictionary until the web showed up.
Dictionary.com was launched in 1995 and I suspect I’ve been using it and it’s companion thesaurus almost that long. It’s so handy. And it tells you how to cite it.
Of course I can also look up words in a snap by typing them into google. I’ve also had fun with the Urban Dictionary.
I stumbled into Vocabulary.com Dictionary when doing a google word search. I liked it’s looks. It’s got a clean interface. A search on a word brings up a list of not only the word I typed, but some possible variants – often a big help and can spark some new thinking.
I love their Mission Statement:
Words define us.
We believe that language has the power to open doors and close gaps.
Our mission: expand access to education and understanding through vocabulary instruction. For us, it’s not just about the words, it’s about improving literacy.
I believe most of that too.
They call themselves the dictionary with soul. That may be taking it a bit far, but not by much. Poke around and you’ll find all sorts of things from games to test prep and the morphology and roots of words. A slightly different dictionary for true word lovers is my take.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Write well and often,