Dictionary Pictures Aren’t SuperfluousPosted: June 8, 2012
Remember dictionaries? I’m not talking about those online things we all access now. I’m referring to those big, dusty, old books that took up shelf space in our classrooms and homes.
They’d wait there on their shelves, standing by for the next chance to go to work as the ultimate arbiters of important matters like spelling, pronunciation, use, and meaning.
Some dictionaries were so revered that they were far too special to sit on a mere shelf. They sat in a special holder that sat on top of the shelves that held all the lesser books.
When you respected a word enough to ensure you were using it correctly, a dictionary was the friend you wanted by your side.
In an argument, it was always good to find that the dictionary agreed with your side. Smart people would concede that they were wrong when confronted with proof from Webster’s or Oxford. Those not smart enough to concede in the face of proof from one of the revered reference books could be convinced with the mere prospect of that hefty book being used as a weapon for truth.
One of the great features of the printed dictionaries were the little black and white line drawings that accompanied some definitions. They were simple, but were just the ticket to complete the picture the words painted for the reader. Reading the definition of a capybara gave you a general idea of what one was, but the drawing sealed the knowledge of the nature of the animal.
I miss those old line drawings. It is sad to think of the artists who produced them, sitting around reminiscing about the days when there was a market for pen and ink drawings of things like chipmunks, finials and millstones. I’m not optimistic that the online dictionaries are going seek those folks out and reactivate their pens.
Bringing Pictures To Online Dictionaries
Internet dictionaries lack the pictures that I love. Still, all is not lost.
The greater graphic potential of the internet could allow us all to participate in making online dictionaries better. No, I’m not advocating that we all start doing pen and ink sketches of obscure animals.
What I’m hoping is that we can work something out with these new reference “books” to accept photographic submissions from the public. If you think about it, we all see very clear representations of words. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
The definition of superfluous according to Merriam-Webster.com is: