Wick Communications

In praise of dictionaries

In Writing on January 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

I know this is going to sound painfully 1973, but I still love my big ol’ dictionary.

Look, more often than not, I Google words too. If I’m in the middle of editing something on our server, I’m very likely to go online and type the word to see if I’m spelling it correctly. Sometimes it’s easier than reaching for the old Webster’s fourth edition.

But I realized today that I like that big, heavy book-version of the dictionary for much the same reason I like printed newspapers: Both of those old standbys teach me things I did not know I wanted to learn.

Example: Today I was editing a story and came to a full stop at “taxicab.” I didn’t know whether it was one word or two. So I reached onto the shelf and looked it up. Probably took 30 seconds or so. I’m guessing that is 10 seconds more than it would have taken to look it up online. The image you see with this post is pretty much what I saw.

Taxi dancer? Have you ever heard of a taxi dancer? …

Perhaps you have. But my life has been enriched just that skosh now that I know there is a term for someone hired to dance with folks who otherwise would have no partner at your local dancehall. Why do I care? Couldn’t tell you. Will it make its way into my prose? Maybe, but probably not. It feels a bit precious, doesn’t it?

Point is, I learned something I would not have learned had I simply Googled “taxicab.” And, to me, that is the untold advantage newspapers have over the Web. If you open any one of our newspapers to, say, Page 4, you will read something you weren’t looking for, something that enriches your understanding of your world in some small way. It’s these little things that make life whole.

I know, I know. The Web is an endless source of things you did not know. It’s just that stumbling upon it is done differently. You can Google “Joe Paterno” or “weather in Minneapolis” and find dozens of stories that will likely tell you what you need to know about those topics. But, if you do so, you will be denied that lagniappe that comes with each and every newspaper. And as anyone from Louisiana can tell you, it’s that little something extra that makes life worth living.

Clay

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