Yes or No: Do You Use a Dictionary?

It was a slow news day over at the Wall Street Journal yesterday, as they gave us this enlightening piece of crap:

Still not satisfied? Fine, click on the Google “News” tab – and you will be directed to a page of links where the word assiduous appears in news stories. Presto, sample sentences and usage examples.

“You and I can be our own lexicographers now,” says Barbara Wallraff, the longtime language columnist for The Atlantic magazine. “We don’t need dictionaries.”

Yeah. I think we still need dictionaries, lady. Oh, and by the way, thank you for creating a whole paragraph devoted to the finer points of Google News. I bet if you search for “cat” in Google Images you’ll see all kinds of pictures, too. I feel safer now.

The point here is that printed dictionaries aren’t of much use to people anymore. I haven’t picked up a printed dictionary since sometime early on in high school. It’s easier, faster and more complete to go to the search bar and type “Define: Assiduous” or any other word. I’m a pretty good speller, so maybe that’s why I feel no need to look up the words in a book. But, even if I do miss an “s” or a “e” here or there, Google can quickly figure out what I want faster than I could with a book.

(Yes, I’m aware of the “traditions” involved with the book searches. But you know what we call people that keep doing things the same way over and over again just because that’s the way it’s always been done?  Conformists.)

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