My favorite: a 1951 edition of Webster's Unabridged New Twentieth Century Dictionary lies open at all times; tempting me to browse through its 3000 illustrated, fact-filled pages. A friend's mother gave it to me when she decided her children were "done looking up words." It has been truly loved. It is covered with children's penciled scribbles, ink pen artwork on the front, a few multiplication figures, the signature of one of her sons, and even a cigarette burn. I consider it priceless.
The earliest piece of technology that began the displacement of my reference books came when I purchased my first computer and discovered the thesaurus attached to my word processing program. What ease! What joy! What fun! Then the Internet exploded into the universe and I began to research words (definition, spelling, usage, etc.) through online resources like Merriam-Webster Online and Oxford Dictionaries Online and literally hundreds of other sources. OMG!
What is truly amazing is the number of viewers who visit these Internet sites. According to Merriam-Webster, America’s leading provider of language information for over 150 years, they now reach 40 million viewers each month through their free online websites. Who even knew 40 million people look for a word every month? I certainly don’t picture that many people grabbing a tattered old dictionary off the shelf and searching for a word. Maybe this technology is a good thing for more than just writers looking for that perfect word…
And speaking of that perfect word, I guarantee you’ll find that and more during a visit to the Merriam-Webster website. In addition to America’s finest dictionary and thesaurus, you’ll find a Spanish-English Dictionary, a Medical Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica. You’ll find a Test Your Vocabulary Quiz (I got 3700 points. You?); and entertaining Word Games like Jumble Crosswords, Deep Sea Word Search, Fowl Words, Eat Your Words, Jumble Jong, Word Sodoku, and even one called Writer’s Block.
You’ll find word activities for kids, a link for a Word-of-the-Day application, and a section called New Words & Slang. Some recent entries:
- Facebooker: a person who uses the social networking site Facebook
- Miles per plug (MPP): a measure used to quantify number of miles that an electric plug-in motor vehicle can travel without using gas
- Thrifting: the practice of spending money carefully
- Brolation: a friendship between two men
The M-W website is the perfect place to hunt for unusual words like canoodle, brontophobia, katzenjammer, flibbertigibbet and whiffle; or ubiquitous – one of the most searched for words on their website. I went into literary overload seeing so many new words. And I'm not the only one. The superfluity of unrecognized words in this post actually caused my spellchecker to run out of of red ink! (Just kidding.) Oh, and where and when can I use logorrhea: an excessive flow of words? That’s so much classier than saying someone has “diarrhea of the mouth.” Wait, logorrhea and diarrhea rhyme – maybe I can use them in a poem! Hmmm...I better settle down.
Anyway, hope you'll take a minute and stop by the M-W website. I know you won’t be disappointed. Instead of spending countless hours scouring reference books like we did in “the old days,” you’ll uncover a mind-boggling world of words (like those below) with just a few clicks of your mouse; and a good writer can always use another word.
10 Charming Words for Nasty People
Words You May Hardly Believe: Top 10 Words with Bizarre Meanings
- Whiffle: to produce a whistling or puffing sound; wind gust
- Spanghew: to throw violently into the air (especially a frog)
- Axinomancy: devining guilt or innocence by balancing an ax on a pole
- Breeches Part: a female playing a male part in a play
- Poltophagy: chewing food until it becomes porridge
- Lipogram: a writing without a certain letter (like no "r" or "o")
- Crowkeeper: person who is in charge of the crows
- Gyascutus: imaginary beast who walked on hillsides and was thus lop-sided (thought to be a near relative of the whang-doodle and snipe)
- Hapax Legomenon: a word occurring only once in a document or collection of writing (something said only once)
- Mytacism: excessive or wrong use of the letter “m”
- Defenestration: to throw a person or thing out of a window
- Flibbertigibbet: a silly flighty person
- Kerfuffle: disturbance, fuss
- Persnickety: fussy about small details; fastidious
- Callipygian: having shapely buttocks
- Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding something not looked for
- Mellifluous: having a smooth rich flow
- Discombobulated: upset, confused
- Palimpsest: writing material used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased; layers apparent beneath the surface
- Sesquipedalian: long; characterized by the use of long words
Words for Uncommon Things That Scare:
Top 10 Unusual Phobias
- Haphephobia: fear of being touched
- Doraphobia: dread of touching the skin or fur of an animal
- Eremophobia: dread of being alone
- Ergophobia: a fear of or aversion to work
- Hypnophobia: the morbid fear of sleep
- Brontophobia: an abnormal fear of thunder
- Kakorrhaphiophobia: an abnormal fear of failure
- Ophidiophobia: an abnormal fear of snakes
- Taphephobia: fear of being buried alive
- Phobophobia: an excessive fear of acquiring a phobia
Words for Ideas Worth Thinking About
- Zeitgeist: the spirit of the time; the general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era
- Spirit de l’escalier: witty remark thought of too late, on the way home; the clever comment you wish you had delivered.
- Schadenfreude: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others
- Apophasis: the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it. I’m not going to mention…
- Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: the logical mistake that one thing caused another just because it happened first.
- Sisyphean: requiring continual and often ineffective effort
- Dockdolager: something that ends or settles a matter; a decisive blow or answer.
- Zeugma: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually applying it to each in a different sense. She lost her ticket and her temper.
- Beckmesser: a critic or teacher of music characterized by timid and excessive reliance on rules
- Katzenjammer: distress, depression or confusion; a discordant clamor.