30 votes

A dictionary with expressive definitions unlike those anywhere else

13 comments

  1. [4]
    Diff
    (edited )
    Link
    Interesting read, I'll have to give that dictionary a look some time. Sadly, at least the links to it through machaut.uchicago.edu are dead. Even more disappointing, it seems to be permanent....

    Interesting read, I'll have to give that dictionary a look some time. Sadly, at least the links to it through machaut.uchicago.edu are dead.

    Even more disappointing, it seems to be permanent. Archive.org last saw it online back in 2016. uchicago.edu is still online, maybe the dictionary has been moved elsewhere?

    Thankfully though, the S3 link hosting the actual dictionary database file is still available. And for those of us on Debian, it's even in the repos and it's super easy to get working inside GNOME Dictionary. Just install GNOME Dictionary, dictd, and dict-gcide:

    The GCIDE contains the full text of the 1913 Webster's Unabridged Dictionary,
    supplemented by many definitions from WordNet, the Century Dictionary, 1906,
    and many additional definitions contributed by volunteers.

    Then restart (or systemctl start dictd) and add "127.0.0.1" (not localhost) as a dictionary source in GNOME Dictionary and tada. Even works offline unlike the default dictionaries.

    13 votes
    1. [2]
      vivaria
      Link Parent
      Ah, shoot! A quick search and I've found this single-serving site that's a lot more accessible, too: https://www.websters1913.com/ Thanks for the heads up!

      Ah, shoot! A quick search and I've found this single-serving site that's a lot more accessible, too: https://www.websters1913.com/

      Thanks for the heads up!

      10 votes
      1. teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Thanks for this! I was considering registering therightdictionary.com or something and making this myself but this saves me the effort.

        Thanks for this! I was considering registering therightdictionary.com or something and making this myself but this saves me the effort.

        4 votes
    2. userexec
      Link Parent
      Goldendict users are in luck here as well. Just extract the stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2 folder from that s3 download somewhere and add that as a path in its dictionaries list. Works great. Just...

      Goldendict users are in luck here as well. Just extract the stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2 folder from that s3 download somewhere and add that as a path in its dictionaries list. Works great. Just as an aside, if you're into writing a lot, another great Linux program to have on hand is Artha. It's a little WordNet thesaurus that's handy to pop up when you need it.

      1 vote
  2. Menio_Mercina
    Link
    I thought this was – and surprisingly so – an extremely interesting article! Dictionary definitions have always felt rather sterile to me and appeared to quite often omit the figurative usages of...

    I thought this was – and surprisingly so – an extremely interesting article! Dictionary definitions have always felt rather sterile to me and appeared to quite often omit the figurative usages of many words. Either that, or they would display those usages as entries #97 #98 #99 right at the end of a long list of other possibilities. There seemed to be no middle ground. This dictionary from a single man who poured his heart and soul into it seems to strike a nice balance, as well as possibly actually being more accurate in many instances as the author pointed out.

    Notice, too, how much less certain the Webster definition seems about itself, even though it’s more complete — as if to remind you that the word came first, that the word isn’t defined by its definition here, in this humble dictionary, that definitions grasp, tentatively, at words, but that what words really are is this haze and halo of associations and evocations, a little networked cloud of uses and contexts.

    This here really summed up for me the thoughts I’ve had but haven’t been able to put into words. It’s almost as if the modern day dictionaries, in being more concise and precise, do so at the expense of the accuracy of the possible meanings or usages.

    To add to the link above, this also appears to be a working Webster dictionary (with functioning hyperlinks too) although some of the examples seem to differ slightly. E.g. it doesn’t seem to show the “to glisten, or glister, is to shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew” synonym-meaning in the entry for ‘Flash’ for example.
    https://www.webster-dictionary.org/

    10 votes
  3. [2]
    onyxleopard
    Link
    I thought this was a good read. I’ll point out that thesauruses and dictionaries needn’t be conflated. If you’re looking to learn more about words and their semantic relations to one another, I...

    I thought this was a good read. I’ll point out that thesauruses and dictionaries needn’t be conflated. If you’re looking to learn more about words and their semantic relations to one another, I find the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus is a good resource (as the article indicates, they looked in the macOS Dictionary.app, and it includes this resource which can be installed from Apple alongside the OED, as well as resources for many other natural languages besides English, but not Webster’s, unfortunately). I learned recently (independently from this post) that Apple’s Dictionary.app is actually user-extensible (you’re not limited to the dictionaries that Apple bundles and offers for download from it’s preferences)!

    Some resources I’ve come across relating to people adding custom dictionary resources include:

    1. This Language Log post.
    2. This Stack Exchange post which references a Python utility that supports converting between several machine-readable dictionary formats including ones supported by Dictionary.app.

    If anyone knows of other such resources that would be fantastic to know about. Dictionaries are such precious lexical resources that I think organizing them and standardizing their formats to be both machine and human readable, putting them under version control etc. is something that would be cool to get more involved with, but I’m not sure what kinds of projects are already underway nor how to get involved without devoting too much time I don’t have at the moment.

    5 votes
    1. teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      I wish more media was put under public version control. It's weird to me that only software seems to gets this treatment.

      putting them under version control etc. is something that would be cool to get more involved with

      I wish more media was put under public version control. It's weird to me that only software seems to gets this treatment.

      5 votes
  4. DanBC
    Link
    I'm surprised it doesn't mention Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable - a book that you can get old editions of for next to nothing and which is a joy to noodle through.

    I'm surprised it doesn't mention Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable - a book that you can get old editions of for next to nothing and which is a joy to noodle through.

    3 votes
  5. acdw
    Link
    This makes me want to write my own dictionary! It'll only take, what, 40 years? Maybe it'll be a good project for my off-time at work.

    This makes me want to write my own dictionary! It'll only take, what, 40 years? Maybe it'll be a good project for my off-time at work.

  6. Wes
    Link
    That was a fascinating article, and fun to read. I can't imagine learning 28 languages to learn and record the etymologies of words. I'll be giving a lot more respect to Noah Webster after this.

    That was a fascinating article, and fun to read. I can't imagine learning 28 languages to learn and record the etymologies of words. I'll be giving a lot more respect to Noah Webster after this.

  7. [2]
    trunicated
    Link
    Slightly offtopic, but I opened this on a 27" 1440p monitor that's about 2 feet from my face, and I said out loud "why is that text so small?". Am I getting old, or was that text not meant for a...

    Slightly offtopic, but I opened this on a 27" 1440p monitor that's about 2 feet from my face, and I said out loud "why is that text so small?".

    Am I getting old, or was that text not meant for a desktop screen? I think it's the latter due to the ridiculous margins on the sides of the article, but would love to be reassure that I'm not just some old fogey yelling at clouds.

    4 votes
    1. ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      The text size is ridiculously-small in accord with the website's settings. Chrome defaults to 16px as its font-size, which is generous. The website then sets it down to 62.5%, which is 10px, which...

      The text size is ridiculously-small in accord with the website's settings.

      Chrome defaults to 16px as its font-size, which is generous.

      The website then sets it down to 62.5%, which is 10px, which is bad.

      It then sets the paragraph font-size to 1.4em, which is 14px – not enough for comfortable reading, especially with Times as its font.

      I think it's the latter due to the ridiculous margins on the sides of the article

      This is unrelated to text size, per se. Typographic concerns for the Web posit that the optimal width of a text column is somewhere between 55 and 75 symbols. At this length, the human eye finds the optimum between speed of reading for one line, and speed of switching between two adjacent lines. The length is derived from typographic industry, which had been researching the comfort of reading for a long time.

      Does this look better to you? Does it read better? (It won't reflect the huge margins caused by the enormity of your screen. Put two sheets of paper next to the image if you want. :) )

      4 votes