Reviving the group

DiscussionsDictionaries & other reference books

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Reviving the group

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Nov 7, 2013, 5:45pm

As the owner of a totally unnecessary range of dictionaries and reference books, I feel it is my duty to celebrate the fact. I have dictionaries of languages I can't read, and reference books I reach for less than once a year (often during the course of a friendly argument with Mrs Bookworm).

Nov 7, 2013, 5:55pm

We don't have them here, but at my husband's parents' home are multiple sets of old encyclopedias, the most interesting being his grandmother's old German set. There's one series of color illustrations in it demonstrating the differences of various ethnic groups. Oh the things people used to think! heh. If we had the space (and money, but that's a whole other matter, hahaha) I'd love to collect others.

Nov 8, 2013, 6:20pm

> "I have dictionaries of languages I can't read, and reference books I reach for less than once a year"

This describes quite a lot of the reference works in my library.

So what if I only refer to my armenian or basque dictionaries once or twice a year, or that my english-russian dictionary of computer terminology mostly just collects dust?
It's not like I could go to the local library and use their copies - they don't have them!

Nov 11, 2013, 6:09am

I try to read all the introductions, etc. in the language dictionaries, but for looking up words -- it is much easier online. They are good though if you need a shade of meaning or use in a phrase. The ones that get on my nerves are the topical dictionaries such as for the renaissance, or for English literature, or the Ancient World, etc. etc. I collect these and try to read them cover to cover but rarely get much beyond letter b.

Nov 11, 2013, 6:25am

Online dictionaries aren't quite there yet for some languages, but for others, yeah, online is so much better.

Faulkner's Middle Egyptian dictionary has proven indispensable for me this year, or would have, if someone hadn't entered in all of the words and their glosses into a searchable .PDF! The sign/word variants have been moved into distinct lemmata in the electronic version, but that's still quite usable. All of the references to texts in each entry have been stripped, but since it's usually a chore to find the text mentioned and look at the context anyway, it's no great loss for a beginner like me.

Otoh, the only dictionaries (that i know about) for other languages are often just glossaries, without any examples, or etymologies, or even root information for inflected languages. Paper dicos still rule for these.

What are the most useful online dictionaries you know of anthonywillard?

Nov 11, 2013, 6:36am

Plenty of languages have their dictionaries online, why would only English speakers have done that? It's simply that if you don't speak one and don't know what their large dictionaries are then you wouldn't know of their sites. The infamous Dutch Van Dale dictionary is online, in all its glory, for instance. Granted, if you want the full info rather than simple definitions you have to have a subscription (either personal or university/library), just like you must subscribe in order to use the OED online. These companies do still need to make their money, after all.

Nov 11, 2013, 3:16pm

Do you lexicophiles* know about the website ?
It's French, but there's an English language version.
I'm waiting for the day that someone asks, "Do you happen to have a Sinhala -English dictionary?" Until then said work remains undisturbed on the shelf.

*Is this a real word? It's not in my dictionaries, but it looks genuine.

Nov 11, 2013, 6:21pm

>5 binders:
Oh I didn't mean that no languages except english had detailed dictionaries online, there are excellent ones in italian, german, french and many other languages no doubt, as well as simply digitised versions of print dictionaries like the WSOY finnish dictionary. Even Irish has the somewhat spartan "Focloir Beag", which gives more information that a simple glossary.

The "not quite there yet" applies to smaller languages like Syriac, and to languages where the entries are incomparable to your Dudens, OEDs, Dictionnaires de l'Académie française, even though detailed versions appear in print for these languages.

SInce an online dictionary has the page space to include everything, you'd expect a higher standard than you'd get in a pocket dictionary, which is the level of many of the online dictionaries i've encountered.
Even if some of the extant paper dictionaries were digitised and indexed, that would be an improvement (in my not-so-humble opinion anyway!).

>7 JemmyHope: That's a great site jemmyhope!
and Urban Dictionary has 'lexicophile', whatever that says about its word-status!
The few times i've looked up words in my Sinhala-English, i've spent ages puzzling out the script, so it tends to gather dust while a handy Sinhala speaker is consulted.

Nov 11, 2013, 10:07pm

@ 5 "What are the most useful online dictionaries you know of?"

For Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese I use Otherwise I use paper dictionaries, including the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary for English. For Spanish dialect and slang or for obsolete words, I use the paper Harper-Collins Spanish Unabridged Dictionary. English words I don't find in the Random House I usually find on Wikipedia, of failing that I go to Google.

Nov 13, 2013, 3:17pm

Sinhala script has me beat too, binders, but I'm usually at a loss beyond Europe.
A couple of favourites of mine are Yule and Burnell's "Hobson-Jobson", and Borrow's "Romano-Lavo Lil", though I haven't a copy of the latter.

Has anyone ever seen a Modern Greek etymological dictionary? I haven't.