You know how I feel about my dictionary. It’s the first place I go, not just for spelling but even for fact-checking. Everything starts at the dictionary (here’s just one example). Even the Chicago Manual of Style tells editors to defer to the dictionary.
So I was delighted to see this headline in the New York Times: “Move Over, Wikipedia. Dictionaries Are Hot Again.” Why? Because, it seems, people still trust dictionaries.
At a time when many are questioning the definition of common words they thought they understood, after years of the English language being degraded by text messages and hashtags, dictionaries have made a surprising comeback in the United States.
On dictionary apps and websites, “lookups” (which, according to Merriam-Webster, is one word) of words or phrases related to news events have precipitously increased. Bibliophiles are becoming social media stars. Sales of print dictionaries remain brisk and are a profit center for some publishers.
“Dictionaries are not regarded as sexy or interesting, but what dictionaries are known for is telling the truth,” said Jesse Sheidlower, a lexicographer and past president of the American Dialect Society. “Right now there are a lot of questions about what is true. We want clear statements about what things are, and dictionaries provide that.”
Some dictionaries are better than others (you can read my recommendations here), but you just can’t go wrong with a looking up words and definitions and etymologies. Remember that spellings and definitions change over time, so bookmark your dictionary and refer to it often!
Have at it, y’all!
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