We’ve all heard the phrase look it up in the dictionary. But how did it actually come to be? What is the history of the dictionary?
On April 15th 1747, Samuel Johnson published an English dictionary at over 43,500 words.
It wasn’t the first dictionary ever published, but it was by far the most comprehensive English language dictionary of its time. It was also the first that ever published etymologies and various meanings for words.
It took Johnson and and several part time copyists eight years to compile the definitions. Although comprehensive, it had many biases and limitations, most being that Johnson had some quirky ideas about standards for word inclusion.
There have been other dictionaries that have been published since Johnson’s edition– the most famous being Webster’s and the Oxford editions. Both of which were even more comprehensive in their development. However, were they any more objective?
I recently read an interesting book called The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. It really heightened my understanding and awareness of the bias in the English language. Williams went into great detail to discuss the differences in word choices and meanings for class and gender.
I feel this is something we still see today. Even with creations of “urban” dictionaries, there are still varying forms of slang, cultural, racial, regional, and even ageist bias in the use of the English language.
Not to mention, with technology and social media- new words, phrases, memes and meanings are created at the speed of light. Think of the new context behind the use of the name “Karen” or phrase “Let’s go Brandon.”
Is there any wonder that people will forever be lost in understanding the true implications of conversational English?
Language is tricky, so much can be lost in translation, and understanding. However, there is also a beauty in its complexity. Could language ever be truly objective? Would we even want it to be?
Much like a woman, words will always contain more than immediately meets the eye. You have to dig deeper to understand the true context and layers in its meaning.
Maybe that’s the problem so far- these dictionaries have all been compiled by men… 😉
If you haven’t joined the Wordle bandwagon yet, you’re missing out! The game is spreading like a wildfire, gaining in popularity each day.
So, what is it, and what’s the appeal? What is the magic of wordle?
Wordle was created by a software engineer in Brooklyn for his partner during the pandemic. First, it was just a private word guessing game the two of them played, but then they added it to a family What’s App group and before long it was shared with friends etc. After seeing the widespread appeal, they decided to release it to the world last October.
Wordle is probably one of the simplest interface and concepts imaginable. It is literally just a five letter guessing game with six chances to guess the word of the day. Guess a letter correct and it changes color depending on placement and inclusion in the word.
So, what makes Wordle so special vs other word games out there? Many would say it’s the shared community. Others say it’s the one word answer per day. It literally takes three minutes of your time and then you move on with your day. You can even stoke that competitive spirit by sharing your results on your social media feed with a widget blurring out the letters to prevent spoilers.
There’s also the user friendly approachability to the game. Anyone old or young can play. There’s nothing to download, just type it in online and it pops right up. I’ve played and compared letters with my seven-year-old son, my in-laws, strangers in line for coffee, and eighth grade students while subbing.
That’s it, five minutes of using your brain to guess letters and you share a secret with the world.
So, if you haven’t yet, join the fun- and try the magic of Wordle!
Do you really like word games and want to continue the fun after the five minutes? Here’s a few others to try:
FreeRice.com– Practice your vocabulary, grammar and trivia skills, all while donating rice/food to the World Food Programme!
Somewhere in the last twenty years schools decided to stop teaching grammar. This was not really discussed or debated– it just happened. Why?
The main argument has been a shift in educational philosophy. Instead of previous generations, where the focus was on rote learning and memorization and worksheets, new philosophies sing the praises of critical thinking and hands on learning. In theory, this is great. Critical thinking skills are necessary across the board and will set children up for success in life and in the workplace. But are these philosophies missing something?
Current Grammar Curriculums
If you look at most public school primary grade curriculums there is a hole in grammar fundamentals. The approach is that students will learn these skills as they go. Teachers will use grading rubrics touching on punctuation and basic grammar principles as a scale to teach as necessary. But does this work? What happens when no one teaches the basic principles of the English language? Will a foundation ever be laid if students never learn the basic rules?
Arguments abound from high schools, colleges and superiors in the workplace saying no, students have not picked up these fundamentals. Today’s recent graduates including those with university degrees, seem to be unable to construct a simple declarative sentence, either orally or in writing. They cannot spell common, everyday words. Basic grammar and punctuation appear to be a complete mystery to recent generations.
Do We Need to Understand Grammar?
But is this a problem? Many would still argue no, that with technology capabilities what they are, it is no longer necessary to understand grammar ourselves. It is true that most writing is done on computers and tablets now. Most students no longer even carry notebooks and pencils to school. But should we rely on spell and grammar check for everything? Is it even entirely accurate?
The flawed approach to this argument is computers will never replace the conversational tone of human beings. In theory, grammar and spell check will pick up basic level mistakes, but will it ever replace the true understanding of sentence structure? Or possibly capture the beauty and fluency of the English language?
Computers can also never replace the use of grammar understanding when it comes to our conversational interactions. Much like the cashier who can no longer make change on their own, our reliance on technology impairs our own intelligence and skillset to connect.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Are we sacrificing by losing our fundamental understanding of the English language?
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