HD: The Last Print Dictionary? 
Posted: 02 October 2011 04:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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My response to a Dennis Baron blog post about the AHD5.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What is important about dictionaries is not . What is important is the information contained within.

What is important to you.  It annoys me when people talk as if their personal preferences define the world.  I personally care a lot about “their physical form, the fact that we can touch them, their weight, their smell,” and I’m very much looking forward to getting a copy of AHD5—the AHD is one of the most beautiful dictionaries ever made.  You can talk about “aura” if you like, but as a putdown it seems to me pretty weak.  And what happens when your computer connection goes out?  Then those of us with the print reference works will have the last laugh.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As Walter Benjamin put it, “technological reproducibility emancipates the work of art from its parasitic subservience to ritual” (1056–57).
----

What do those numbers represent?

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Posted: 02 October 2011 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The numbers are the page numbers in the cited volume.

I personally care a lot about “their physical form, the fact that we can touch them, their weight, their smell,”

A classic case of fetishizing the object. The essence of a dictionary is not its form, but the information it contains. I appreciate the beauty of many print dictionaries too, but that doesn’t mean that I prefer to use print versions over digital.

And what happens when your computer connection goes out?  Then those of us with the print reference works will have the last laugh.

What happens when your house burns down along with your library? What happens when you’re traveling and don’t have those heavy volumes in your luggage? What happens when you’re working at home, but your dictionary is in your office? What happens when you need to display the dictionary entry to a class? What happens when you know a word is in the dictionary, but under a different, non-cross-referenced headword and you need full-text search?

There are lot more cases where print volumes fail you than there are for digitized failures. (And digital doesn’t necessarily mean online. I’ve got pdf copies of many dictionaries.)

I don’t want to seem that I’m dumping on print as a medium though. Print is still superior for a lot of texts, but dictionaries aren’t among them.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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One of the great joys of physical dictionaries is the side trips you end up making on the way to you presumed goal.  They’re not there with e-dictionaries.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Faldage - 02 October 2011 02:10 PM

One of the great joys of physical dictionaries is the side trips you end up making on the way to you presumed goal.  They’re not there with e-dictionaries.

I like ‘em in whatever format. I can spend an easy half hour jumping from lemma to lemma on etymonline.com, or just as profitably (or not) in a print MW or OED or Dutch Van Dale. I guess this is what you get as the in-betweeen generation. For me the word’s the thing!

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Posted: 02 October 2011 11:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Since I’m working on uploading a book to amazon, (and I’m not techy so it’s a pathetically hard journey), I thought I’d better get one.  I’ve surprised myself - I actually enjoy reading in this format and the word really is the thing.  I found myself giggling out loud last night at a freebie of “Diary of a Nobody” which I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  I use the online OED much more than my cumbersome SOED, but there’s a place for both.  Not everyone has or wants internet access and some people enjoy the physicality of books.  What is more beautiful than the ancient illustrated manuscripts, for instance? though of course, dictionaries aren’t in that category.  As for discovering new words, I do this with the online OED though it’s not as random as a book falling open at another page. One online OED search leads to an earlier version of a word which leads to similar words and so on.

[ Edited: 02 October 2011 11:48 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 03 October 2011 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Faldage - 02 October 2011 02:10 PM

One of the great joys of physical dictionaries is the side trips you end up making on the way to you presumed goal.  They’re not there with e-dictionaries.

I still get sidetracked just as much with the online OED (although I’m not complaining!). The list of neighbouring words on the right usually contains something to lead me happily astray.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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A classic case of fetishizing the object.

“Fetishizing” has an unavoidable Freudian connotation, and is in my opinion a most unfair way to characterize the physical love of printed dictionaries (or of printed books of any kind).  It practically suggests (I am sure Dave didn’t mean this, mind) that someone who loves a dictionary uses it - nay, needs it - to get sexually aroused ;-).
The fact remains that a book is - can be - a thing of great beauty, regardless of its content. A website has little more than its content to offer. My house is full of books, including about 16 dictionaries - which I very rarely open nowadays, but cannot bear to part with, because I love them (asexually, I assure you ;-)

The Internet is immensely useful, and immensely valuable. There’s not a lot of beauty about it.

(goes back to rubbing his cheek against his little stack of dictionaries, murmuring endearments the while)

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Posted: 03 October 2011 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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lionello - 03 October 2011 10:14 AM

A classic case of fetishizing the object.

“Fetishizing” has an unavoidable Freudian connotation

Really? It never occurred to me that Dave wasn’t talking in anything but a Marxian sense, that is, the idea that the fetishised object becomes more important than its uses and purposes. Frottage with a Kindle is likely to be less satisfying than rubbing a Morocco-bound Webster’s down your inner thigh, but looking up a word is no slower …

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Posted: 03 October 2011 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Frottage with a Kindle

Frottage. That’s funny, my AHD from 40 years ago does not have this word as an entry ... err ... or non-entry as the case may be.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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IMHO I think that Dave’s statement that the e-versions are superior “as a research tool” should be pretty uncontroversial, and objectively verifiable.
No doubt baryonic dictionaries have other merits (nice things to hold, nice things to look at on the shelf, status symbols etc)

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Posted: 03 October 2011 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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It never occurred to me that Dave wasn’t talking in anything but a Marxian sense

Exactly. My comment was in the context of Benjamin, who was a Marxist. (Although he doesn’t use “fetish” in the essay I cited. “Aura” is Benjamin’s word, though.) The Benjamin essay is really a fascinating read. Writing in the 1930s, he essentially predicts blogging and reality TV, among other things.

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