Depending on your tastes, these could be a strong selling point or mere bells and whistles. Also, when explains that it was "created especially to serve the needs of a wide variety of readers," this is a subtle way of saying that offensive words of any stripe (it moves briskly from "fuchsin" to "fucoid" and from "niggardly" to "niggle"), not to mention a good number of seemingly inoffensive ones (try looking for anhedonia or 's usage notes are among the best I've found: clear, consistent, sensibly prescriptive, and up-to-date (it's the only dictionary to acknowledge that "nonplussed" is frequently misused to mean "unperturbed").Methodology: I restricted my testing to seven of the relatively affordable and frequently updated college dictionaries (the type of dictionary used not only in the most dormitory rooms but in the most homes and offices as well). This last category yielded words I'd never seen before—like dogsbody, topi, and graduand—and words that were tauntingly familiar but that I actually couldn't have defined correctly to save my life—like hackles (I knew the phrase "raise one's hackles" but what exactly were "hackles" themselves? ), and exiguous (was it not the same word as "exigent"? Its rendering of slang into dictionaryese—"shake one's booty" is defined as "dance energetically"—is a thing of beauty.Remember when Trump tweeted the wrong spelling of unprecedented as 'unpresidented' and quickly deleted it?It can be a challenge to get at what sets a dictionary apart from its peers.To determine my rankings, I looked up seven times over words that I knew but wanted to understand better (like regret, jealous, and overdetermined); words with disputed usages (including aggravate, disinterested, fortuitous); words with potentially interesting etymologies (e.g., chauvinism, juggernaut, lagniappe); neologisms and slang (e.g., blogger, booty, yay); anything friends had looked up recently (e.g., Panglossian, condominium, alembic); as well as the words I didn't know in the last book I read, J. And yet, dazzled as I was by its wealth of pop culture listings—Ladies and gentlemen, in their only appearances in a college dictionary!—"Leno, Jay" ("full name "); "Collins, Phil" ("his many solo hits include 'Sussudio' "); and "Sly" (Sylvester Stallone's nickname gets its own separate entry!
But while it includes my favorite definition of "velleity"—"1. a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it" [sigh]—other entries were decidedly less stirring.
One of the primary differences among dictionaries is the extent to which they try to steer you away from disputed uses ('s "Frequency of misuse has not changed the fact that the spelling sherbert and the pronunciation/sher'bert are wrong and should not be considered acceptable variants" is at one end of the spectrum, and the laissez-faire attitude of , it won't be until Definition 4a that you'll find the familiar meaning "to practice for a performance." Finally: To what extent do you want your dictionary to serve as an encyclopedia? The first thing to know is that "Webster" is a name in the public domain and, as such, can be used by anyone.
Some dictionaries offer everything from photos, maps, and relatively detailed biographical information to lists of presidents, populations, world currencies, and notable deserts. Stock (out of 25 points)—how often each dictionary had the word I was seeking. Definitions (25 points)—the accuracy, clarity, precision, and élan of the explanations of the words' meanings. Usage Guidance (12.5 points; I felt this category, while clearly important, should be weighted less than the first two)—the consistency and reliability of usage notes, as well as the quality and quantity of synonyms and illustrative examples. Etymologies (12.5 points; same thing goes for the weighting of this category)—the comprehensiveness of this information. Enjoyment (25 points)—illustrations, supplemental material, ease-of-use (typeface, location of pronunciation key, facility of finding specific definitions), and, for lack of a better word—and a phrase I feel guilty using with seven dictionaries strewn at my feet—: Did I feel the dictionary was looking down at me? Dictionaries with "Webster" in their title have no more in common with each other than with any other dictionary.
For starters, what type of usage advice do you favor?
Would you prefer your dictionary to be prescriptive (espousing and promoting the idea of a "correct" way to use language) or descriptive (reflecting in a neutral manner the way language actually gets used)? Simply put: Did it make me look forward to spending more time with it?
That view was captured in a send-up that featured her in an advertisement for a perfume called "Complicit".