Does Anyone Use the Dictionary Anymore?

Ah, the American Heritage Dictionary! Does anyone still use it? I realize that it’s pretty easy to check your device to find the correct spelling of a word, especially something out of the ordinary, such as “haboob.” (From the Weather Channel, “Haboobs are dust storms caused by strong winds flowing downward and outward from thunderstorms.”

“All thunderstorms produce these gusty winds, so for a haboob to form, the storm needs to be in a location where the winds can pick up small particles of dirt or sand in a dry desert area.” Pretty interesting, right? And you can find all this easily in your dictionary.

Way back when I was in grammer school, we learned useful things such as using a dictionary, how to check out a book at the library (as long as you had a library card), and how to understand (and use) the *Dewey Decimal Classification. Another helpful tool was the Thesauras; which offers more than 150,000 synonyms, related words, idiomatic phrases, and antonyms. Words are alphabetically organized for ease of use, and each word comes with a brief definition to describe shared meanings.

Later on in school, we learned about Strunk and White’s . I still have my copy and I use it often. The book’s mantra is still on point:

“This much-loved classic, now in its fourth edition, will forever be the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice. The only style manual to ever appear on bestseller lists has explained to millions of readers the basic principals of plain English, and Maira Kalman’s fifty-seven exquisite illustrations give the revered work a jolt of new energy, making the learning experience more colorful and clear.”

I realize that we now live in a techno world and can look up things in a flash. But, as an older person, I still love the feel of real pages and the fun of looking up words and phrases. Trust me, there is always something new to learn and appreciate.


*From Wikipedia:

“The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), colloquially the Dewey Decimal System, is a proprietary library classification system first published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876.[1] Originally described in a four-page pamphlet, it has been expanded to multiple volumes and revised through 23 major editions, the latest printed in 2011. It is also available in an abridged version suitable for smaller libraries. OCLC, a non-profit cooperative that serves libraries, currently maintains the system and licenses online access to WebDewey, a continuously updated version for catalogers.”

“The Decimal Classification introduced the concepts of relative location and relative index which allow new books to be added to a library in their appropriate location based on subject. Libraries previously had given books permanent shelf locations that were related to the order of acquisition rather than topic. The classification’s notation makes use of three-digit Arabic numerals for main classes, with fractional decimals allowing expansion for further detail. Using Arabic numerals for symbols, it is flexible to the degree that numbers can be expanded in linear fashion to cover special aspects of general subjects.[2] A library assigns a classification number that unambiguously locates a particular volume in a position relative to other books in the library, on the basis of its subject. The number makes it possible to find any book and to return it to its proper place on the library shelves.[Note 1] The classification system is used in 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries.[3][4]”

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