A People’s Dictionary? Words Web 2.0 style

I’ve long been one who “protests” the dictionary as a form of enslavement! It is a traffic cop, a false prophet saying and prescribing what words are “right” and which are “wrong”. BAAAAAAHHHHH

This delightful TED Talk is really entertaining and in her quirky way, this “lexicographer” pleads for technology to liberate words and give us a beautiful dictionary where words , ALL words are equal and beautiful and loved. It’s a great watch and you’ll pick up a few beautiful words. I love her wrapping up — “The internet like the dictionary is only words and enthusiasm!”. So true.

Recently there was a brouhah and huzza about the 1,000,000th English word. One was even plucked from the pantheon-Web 2.0 (I wonder who got the check/prize?). However, who cares how many? It is how they are used and most importantly, how words are sucked upon and LOVED! Dictionaries are just books written by people! Samuel Johnson’s collosus “A Dictionary of the English Language” comes foremost to mind – but whatever the effort, they are still human and just OPINION. I feel in love with his book and moreso his mind but the end result was I also began to see the dictionary for what it was – a fiction, a work of art (or trash).

If you are interested in challenging your own notion of “the dictionary” and thinking about how it really has harmed our language, the organic bloodwell of English – I’d recommend looking at a few of the earliest alternative dictionaries that challenged the institutionalized and imprisoned view of what is a word and how we should use it…. (and we still should challenge the OED – god! you even have to pay to look up one of the words they “own” – how can one own a word???) If I get the time, I’ll hunt up my own thrice almost published “Idiot’s Dictionary” and post an excerpt. Been awhile since I looked at this collosus I compiled during my poetic days……

A Philosophical Dictionary – Voltaire

The Devil’s Dictionary – Ambrose Bierce

A History of Lexicography and the Dictionary

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. A few interesting web applications dealing with vocabulary have come to my attention recently. They show alternatives to traditional dictionaries, and their potential for the classroom is far from being discovered:


    Even parts of the BNC are available online today (first 50 matches are displayed):

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Skip to toolbar