From almost the time I could walk, or so the story goes, I was a reader. I loved to read. And growing up poor, books could always be borrowed.
At some point, no doubt growing tired of my constantly badgering my mother for definitions, I was presented with my very own dictionary. By itself, I found the dictionary to be quite enjoyable to read.
I would learn great words like “persiflage”, which means “Light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter”. “Cretin” and “addlepate” were a couple of other fun terms I might toss around the playground.
I am sure this has played a part in my becoming a writer and my general love of words and language, and perhaps a few of the fights I got into growing up.
I actually knew a lexicographer when I was in school. Among other things, one of his jobs was to work with the other lexicographers to determine when some word or term had grown popular enough to be included in the dictionary, or conversely to make sure certain words didn’t get in.
I still have several dictionaries; a paperback, a cloth-bound one and even the 2 volume set of Funk and Wagnalls from 1976, which requires an included magnifying glass to use it.
I haven’t used any of these dictionaries for years, instead turning to my old friend Google when I wanted a definition, synonym, antonym, etc. Usually I could find the information I was looking for, but often it required digging through several sites, drilling down or some other form of sleuthing.
Along comes http://www.wordnik.com According to Wordnik founder, Erin McKean, “Wordnik is all the words, and everything about them.”
I first found out about Wordnik from an episode of Press Here, a television show that is produced in Silicon Valley and features interviews and question and answer with many of today’s leading technology experts, innovators and change makers.
Wordnik is of the belief that if you go looking for a word, you should find it. So, there is no meeting of lexicographers’ minds going on here determining what to include or exclude. If it’s something someone says, thinks or does, you should be able to find it in Wordnik. If not, there are processes for getting the word included.
It’s a fun site, with a blog and other great features.
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