Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Definition--A Statement of the Exact Meaning of a Word, Especially in a Dictionary

Research. We do it without even being aware we're doing it sometimes. It's a necessary part of writing, and sometimes, for us research junkies (and procrastinators) it's a diversion and a distraction. I don't know how many times I've gone chasing the rabbit down the hole hunting for just that perfect word. You know how it goes. Start looking for another word for 'lazy', and you find 'snoozy' (which I thought was one of the Seven Dwarves, but hey...), so then you decide to look up 'snoozy' to see when and where it originated, and so on. You know how it goes.

What that brings me to, finally, is this. Whether you're doing diversionary research or actual work-related research, you need to know where to look stuff up.

Once upon a time it was our trusty library. But now we have the power of the Internet sending its shower of sparks into our fingers and brains. Thing is, it's a vast ocean, and we might not know where to hunt stuff up. Here are just a few tips I've picked up along the way. Feel free to contribute with comments if I've slipped up somewhere.

Dictionaries. We always need a dictionary. One of my old favorites is Merriam-Webster at http://www.merriam-webster.com/. This one's my go-to. The pages aren't too terribly cluttered, plus it has a thesaurus tab. Here's where the adult ADHD kicked in. I had to resist the urge to look up 'thesaurus' in the dictionary tab and 'dictionary' in the thesaurus tab. Plus, for us word junkies, it has a Word of the Day tab.

If you want other dictionaries, you can always go to Google (or any other search engine of your choice, such as Dogpile or DuckDuckGo) and enter 'dictionary'. That will pull up several options for you. I just did that and got:

Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/
Oxford Dictionaries at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us
Cambridge Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus at http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/

Those are just three examples. Several have a thesaurus attached. You might have some favorites of your own, mine just happens to be Merriam-Webster.

As you just saw, there are tons of thesauri (yes, that's the actual plural) to choose from, including our old friend Roget. You can find Roget's Thesaurus at http://www.thesaurus.com/Roget-Alpha-Index.html. The home page is almost disturbingly clean and free of clutter. Check it out.

Sometimes we need a picture. You know, the 'picture's worth a thousand words deal', to help us visualize what we're trying to describe. Or perhaps we need it in our blog posts. The one I use most often is Google Images at https://images.google.com/. Using my earlier search example, the word 'dictionary' pulls up tons of dictionary photos, cartoon drawings of dictionaries, and for whatever reason, a picture of Homer Simpson dressed up sort of professorial. I have no idea why. Which just goes to show you that you need to use your brain cells when looking up stuff online. It's powerful, easy, and fast, but sometimes the results you get are just plain ridiculous. Times like that, you can't beat a paper and ink dictionary. Just be aware. And think.

Keep writing, friends.

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