Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
The Internet Education

Merriam-Webster Launches Open Dictionary 171

sweganeer writes "Merriam-Webster just released Open Dictionary to better take and share the pulse of language through the Web. Of course, Webster's has long celebrated and conveyed language's evolution - unlike linguistic prescriptivists who fail to grasp that's just what language does; and - where I've compared entries - they've certainly done so in a more consistent, professional fashion than online amateurs have in recent years: might Open Dictionary - in conjunction with Webster's standard Online Dictionary - yield the best of authoritative (top-down) and organic (bottom-up), online lexicography?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Merriam-Webster Launches Open Dictionary

Comments Filter:
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:13PM (#14170962)
    An "Open dictionary"?

    Gee. Where have I heard of that before?

    Wiktionary.org [wiktionary.org]
  • Will it have translations to "sup mate" "wad up, biatch" 'k' 'ttyl' and all that... Neat.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:14PM (#14170973) Journal
    It realy is open - it has definitions for fuck and shit

    So, how long before someone says they should be boycotted becasue they don't promote "family values"

    • The closed version has these words also.
    • What the hell? Are there really serious, modern dictionaries out there which *don't* have definitions for `fuck' and `shit'?
      • I was thinking the exact same thing, but I grabbed my Webster's English Dictionary Concise Edition and checked. It has neither word in it. Perhaps its conciseness is to blame?
        • The only concise I have to hand is Collins, which does list them. I suspect age is more of a factor: I doubt whether any mainstream English dictionary included swear words fifty years ago (I have a 1968 Cassells English-German dictionary here which doesn't).

          Or, if your Webster's is a recent edition, maybe they're just thinking about their market share: presumably there's a significant proportion of prudes, fundamentalists and the like who refuse to buy dictionaries containing taboo words.
        • OK, you got me curious. My "Concise Oxford English Dictionary" (240k words) has both of those as well as cunt. My "Collins Gem Mini English Dictionary" (unstated word count) has none of the above.
          • by trewornan ( 608722 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @10:14PM (#14171561)
            "Cunt" is an old word and if it's not included in old dictionaries this must be because of prudery not because it wasn't in use. In fact it goes way back and originally had a perfectly ordinary meaning - specifically a "cleft". The gap in a rope where two strands lie against one another is still called a "cuntline" by riggers and sailmakers.
            • From h2g2 [bbc.co.uk]:

              One of the most offensive terms for female genitalia, the c-word, is the ultimate four-letter word in British English, the final media taboo. The first use of the word in a UK TV drama was in Mosley, a drama about the rise and fall of the British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. This was first shown on Channel 4 in the late 1990s. The word is also the title of a novel by Stewart Home, published in 1999, about the break down of a writer as he rather badly loses the plot, both literally and creativ

      • I've seen dictionaries in public libraries where people have ripped out the pages those two words were found on, as well as "cunt". At least they can't do that with the online version.
        • I've seen dictionaries in public libraries where people have ripped out the pages those two words were found on, as well as "cunt". At least they can't do that with the online version.

          Why were you looking up those two words in different public libraries? Was it some sort of research project?

          Just curious.
          • Actually, I was doing research on early presentations of the crucifiction myth in various cultures. It was obvious that some nearby pages were missing, having been crudely torn out.

            At first I thought it had been done quickly "probably to escape the watchful eyes of the librarians"

            Surprise, surprise, when I went to the front desk to report it, I ran into the librarian who was responsible for the "censoring". "Its a public library, and children might see it." Sure enough, back in the stacks I found other

      • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:43PM (#14171152) Homepage
        I once wrote "motherfucker" in one of my emails using Thunderbird (IIRC). I ran the spell check. It caught other mistakes but accepted "motherfucker". I thought that was very avantgarde of them.

        In any case, I think this open dictionary (although one already exists) is a brilliant idea and really reflects how languages really behave. We don't speak the same way as the previous generations nor should we expect future generations to follow us. I remember when I was taking cognitive science and the professor was going over linguistics. He mentioned that no human spoken language is more advanced or superior to another. While some people still hold Latin in higher esteem than other languages, he mentioned that another way of looking at Latin is to called it "bastardized, proto-Italian". Languages change and evolve. Dictionaries should also reflect that.

        • He mentioned that no human spoken language is more advanced or superior to another.

          Well den, im gonna bust a cap in dat jokers ass!

          Language is integral with human existence. I guess one could argue that no human being is more advanced or superior to another, but that does not agree with popular opinion. Regardless of what job it is, I find that learning the language of that job is critical to doing that job. Basically, mastery of a language and having agreement from others that you are worthwhile is all
      • As for the latter, here is an excellent definition that is neither serious nor modern (I just read it in Don Quixote): To do that thing which no one can do for you.
      • It depends on the dictionary. There is a market for dictionaries that don't have those.

        Most or perhaps all "Collegiate" dictionaries will have the definitions. They are often left out of dictionaries intended for primary and secondary schooling. One puts them in, M-W? I forget.

        Honestly, who gives a shit? The definitions are useless. Who needs to use a dictionary to figure out those words and who would even use a dictionary to settle an argument about their meaning? I guess they're just in there for marketin
    • Some dictionaries here in Canuckistan have had swear words in them for some time now. What I don't like is what will likely be a small avalanche of variations on a traditional word. Consider this entry:

      multicolorful (adjective) : to have many colors, e.g. "that butterfly is multicolorful"

      Call me a purist, but what's wrong with the traditional "multicolored" anyway? Do a good number of people other than the AC who posted that one actually use "multicolorful"?

      Then, of course, there's simple pandering to the
    • Won't somebody please think of the children?
    • The official M-W dictionary has had definitions for fuck, shit, cunt, cocksucker, and just about every other naughty work that has been in common usage for a while. I didn't hear anyone raising any objections then, and I don't see how this will change it. I imagine it might raise some legal issues if entries appear for the colorful meaning of Lewinsky, the verb to google, or any other slang terms that reference personal or corporate names.

      I think M-W, with its authoritative, throroughly researched defi
  • by Elrac ( 314784 ) <carl@smotriczEEE.com minus threevowels> on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:16PM (#14170983) Homepage Journal
    that now SlashDotters will no longer have an excuse for poor spelling in their posts?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @09:20PM (#14171335)
      now SlashDotters will no longer have an excuse for poor spelling in their posts?
      "Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute" from Chaucer sums up my view and should show that reading mispelled words and unconventional grammer is really not all of that hard. The language of the net is broken english, but not so broken as to make it too difficult to read, so live with it. If we all take spelling far too seriously things will degenerate into boring flame wars over whether the Oxford dictionary trumps the Webster. Spelling flames on a forum where "IP" has many meanings makes no sense at all.

      Let's just talk about the shiny things and let other more formal forums worry about where to put their pronouns.

      • Oh, it's broken?

        Funny. Seemed to work last time *I* used it.

        <!-- insert one of my obscenely abusive ad hominem attacks/dismissals here -->
      • The language of the net is broken english, but not so broken as to make it too difficult to read, so live with it.

        The language of the net?

        Slashdot is the major one of multiple web sites that I frequent that doesn't use standard English as normal - though there are occasional posters at other places that don't bother spelling/formatting correctly (or at least with some care). I assume that the people who run their sites want them to be of a professional standard, which sadly Slashdot doesn't appear to be aft
        • Slashdot is the major one of multiple web sites that I frequent that doesn't use standard English as normal

          Which standard of English are you referring to? This is a global forum as you should be able to gauge by the colour of the spelling (or gage and color in USA spelling).

          As an example, hastily written entries by people such as Raster from the enlightenment window manager project have horrible spelling and grammar but are still worth reading and have been linked to on this site since it started. Ther

    • that now SlashDotters will no longer have an excuse for poor spelling in their posts?

      No, it merely means that with a quick flick of a script, every "misspelling" gets added to the dictionary and thus becomes "proper English, 'cause it's in the dictionary"
    • we wil aftur i ad new defenitions for wil, aftur, ad, and defenitions. BTW, Slashdotters is spelled with a lower-case "d". (Hint: look at the top left of this page. ;)
    • by gooman ( 709147 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @11:06PM (#14171745) Journal
      Sure, but their grammering ain't not going to be no better.

  • Thats only one step better than www.dictionary.com which sometimes give pop-under adds. Anyway, neither of them have learned the google lesson. Pops are evil. I don't user their site.
  • by David Hume ( 200499 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:20PM (#14171016) Homepage
    like this:
    pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconios isistic (adjective) : Showing characteristics of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
            The man became pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosisistic after he was exposed to volcanic dust.
            Submitted by: Anonymous on Dec. 02, 2005 14:21
  • wiki style? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by matr0x_x ( 919985 )
    Yes, but does it contain internet slang? Now that would be useful - the average MSN conversation my sister has contains atleast 30 words I don't recognize and I'm only 21 :P
  • by koreaman ( 835838 ) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:23PM (#14171043)
    I'm going to make a few points defending prescriptive teaching of language. Although it's absurd to say that there is one right way to speak English (or any other language), and it's also absurd to set down hard and fast rules like "thou shalt only use 'good' as an adjective", saying that one thing is "correct" and another "incorrect", it is important to know how to accurately convey meaning, speak in a way that will not alienate your audience, and get your point across persuasively and effectively. That is what all good prescriptivists advocate.
    • It is important to know how to accurately convey meaning, speak in a way that will not alienate your audience, and get your point across persuasively and effectively.

      Agreed, and I keep being amazed how often the English language fails to do just that. Unlike in some other languages, in English there is a broad vocabulary, that allows you to express some things in, what, a 1000 different gradients or 'flavors', all saying the same, but with a subtle difference in meaning. Yet it has no distinct words to de

      • Most European languages have the distinction between a formal and informal second person singular, and perhaps plural, e.g., the German 'du' and 'Sie' or Spanish 'tu and 'usted.' English has this, too, with 'thou' and 'you.' Although most people think 'thou' is somehow more formal than 'you,' the opposite is actually true: historically 'thou' was the informal second person.

        In any case, if Dutch if your native language that is probably why you find these "ambiguities" confusing in English. They're really
    • The problem is that the vast majority of people (intellectuals and academic institutions included) believe in such absurdities as "good" and "bad" language, and prescriptivists are no exception. Dictionaries are often cited as definitive sources of whether or not a word is "real." I agree that prescriptive language ought to be taught, but students should also be taught that while formal language is important, it is not "better" than informal language. Unfortunately I don't foresee this happening any time so
    • That is what all good prescriptivists advocate.

      No that's not what they advocate. And the reason you aren't familiar with their views is that they've been descredited in English. But if you read language theories in say Russian or French you will come up with people who clearly believe that language should be "top down" i.e:

      1) There is some sort of need
      2) This need is expressed by the creation of new words or new forms
      3) Experts evaluate these new words and new forms and come up with a solution to the
      • These ideas are so much against the traditional experience of most English-speaking people that is it no wonder that these ideas are rejected out of hand almost immediately.

        English culture is one of assimilation and absorbtion. Even more so in America, where huge numbers of people are being absorbed into a mainstream culture that speaks essentially only one language. It takes time and a few generations, but this method has worked surprisingly well, and if we as English speakers relied upon some distant co
    • only use "good" as an adjective...

      Do you mean as opposed to its use as a noun, as in "the common good"? I'm not sure who is opposed to turning adjectives into nouns in that way.

      Or do you mean good as opposed to well? Both are adjectives. Well is for transitive verbs, but good applies to intransitive verbs. The language nazi in me chuckles to himself when some intellectual says "You look well today." Look is intransitive in that usage.

      OTOH, see my frickin' sig :-). Language is a moving target.

    • That is what all good prescriptivists advocate.

      Unfortunately, good prescriptivists are few and far between. Most prescriptivists primarily advocate rules which aren't actually useful for improving clarity and are generally impossible to follow precisely without writing things that are incomprehensible. This is, of course, because most of the rules which people routinely violate are the ones which aren't intuitively obvious to them as native speakers because they aren't part of the language.

      That's not to sa
  • Merriam-Webster?
    An on-line dictionary?
    Fucking brilliant boys!
  • Slashdoting-adj-To have a large influx of people visit a website who are being redirected from slashdot.
    Sentence-
    The merriam webster website has just received a slashdoting.
  • Pssssh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ransak ( 548582 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:27PM (#14171071) Homepage Journal
    No one tops the Urban Dictionary! [urbandictionary.com]

    ... at least for a laugh.

  • Finally... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have my chance to push the word I came up with in high school... Geriphilia (n.) - sexual perversion in which the elderly are the preferred sexual object.
  • by sloths ( 909607 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @08:48PM (#14171196)
    I hate it when I leave my dictionary open. I read on Wikipedia it isn't good for the spine.
  • Wow, very cool too see Linux/Firefox listed on their page next to Windows and Macintosh as a supported OS/Browser: Surely did take a lot of time and work to get this type of recognition and acceptance from the mainstream world.

    Silly and snide asides aside, here's a big *hurray* for all the GNU/Linux/*NIX folks along with a great big *cheer* for the Mozilla and Google people who are greatly contributing to accelerated acceptance for the F/OSSy ones.

    This is really too cool! *beam* That I'm a long-time Merriam
  • While this is open, I was left somewhat disappointed to find that it isn't actually Free (as in speech). The headline left me expecting it to be possible to download a dump of the list under a CC-like licence.
  • Restrictivists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rydia ( 556444 ) on Friday December 02, 2005 @09:15PM (#14171311)
    I like how "language evolves" has turned into "language shouldn't even attempt to stay the same." There's a real problem with both extreme views on the issue, and the idea-- and what is borne out in most all languages-- is that there is a conservative section of the language's population which works as a retentive force and another section that works as a changing force. The changing force is always stronger, but the retentive force is still important... it's why we can still read older materials and understand them (although as they get older it gets more and more difficult). That's really valuable. By removing that retention, we run the risk of rending a lot of important writing incomprehensible to most, and at worst having dialects make the jump to separate languages by way of regional syntax.

    So yes, language evolves. But the idea that we should throw whatever retention we have out the window because things eventually change is a really, really stupid view.

    • I think that today (and I admit that I've done exactly zero double-blind, sociological studies using proper sampling), the creation of words or terms are more related to the trademarkability (i.e., "marketing value) of those words and how well it plays with the target market.

      When I saw Fonzie say, "cool", or watched WKRP and got exposed to the "phone police", it was pretty much honest. Now the cool is programmed, created by industry, and that is what is inherently dishonest. Kids are pretty perceptive.
  • by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Friday December 02, 2005 @09:20PM (#14171338)
    > Of course, Webster's has long celebrated and conveyed
    > language's evolution - unlike linguistic prescriptivists who
    > fail to grasp that's just what language does; and - where I've
    > compared entries - they've certainly done so in a more
    > consistent, professional fashion than online amateurs have in
    > recent years: might Open Dictionary - in conjunction with
    > Webster's standard Online Dictionary - yield the best of
    > authoritative (top-down) and organic (bottom-up), online
    > lexicography?"

    Tip for the day - no sentence should have 70 words in it.

    • Tip for the day - no sentence should have 70 words in it.
      I sentence you to read Moby Dick.
    • It was translated from latin, which allows essentially infinite sentences.
    • I have a very dear friend who teaches college level english classes. I have, on more than one occasion, helped her grade papers. Sadly, it generally looks like I've slashed my wrists over the pile of papers by the time I've done. These students do not know the difference between "there", "their", and "they're" and use all of the interchangably. They also do not know the difference between "two", "too", and "to". I have seen 3-page papers that were a single run-on sentence. The only period in the whole
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2005 @09:27PM (#14171367)
    The idea for an open dictionary has been around since 1860, and in print since the 1920s (I believe).

    Take a gander at "The Meaning of Everything" a book by Simon Winchester. It outlines the fascinating story of the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is THE dictionary by the way: it is a 30+ volume set that sets out to catalogue every word in the English language and is continuously updated.

    How do the updates happen? Readers throughout the world read texts and write out definitions on slips that are returned to the OED offices for compilation and review. Think about the enormity of the undertaking back in the Victorian era. It's really an outstanding achievement.

    English has never, ever been a prescriptive language. We've never had a council declaring what stays and what leaves the language.

    Anyway, read the book and be duly unimpressed by these half-assed efforts for an on-line dictionary. Go to the nearest university and take a look at the full OED in all its glory.

  • First of all: prescriptive linguistics [wikipedia.org] is not bound to induce linguistic stasis, it can be and has been intended to force a change in a language. This alone makes the issue more one of how much should the government interfere with everyday life, not one of whether government should conserve their state language against "foreign influence", whatever that may be.

    Now what strict prescriptivist critics and advocates both fail to grasp: The evolution of a language common to one cultural or sub-cultural group i
  • I totally agree that words can mean whatever we want them to. Isn't that totally spam? It's lubricated! Well, I'm phasing.

  • "...might Open Dictionary - in conjunction with Webster's standard Online Dictionary - yield the best of authoritative (top-down) and organic (bottom-up), online lexicography?"

    Yes. Next question.
    • Only if there is only one language considered. The Kamusi project is more relevant for English when you consider it in combination with Swahili for instance.. Only English is so limited..

      Thanks,
            GerardM
  • If it's slang you want http://www.urbandictionary.com/ [urbandictionary.com]
  • Now they need to have an open dictionary for French... a counter-balance for L'Académie française. ;)
  • It's just a collection of made-up sniglets so far. The fact that it doesn't require several citations of actual usage is its weakness. There seem to be several people spamming it with fake words as a joke.
  • I wonder how long before the meaning of Liff words are entered into it? :-)
    I'd love to see stuff like:
    DITHERINGTON (n)
    Sudden access to panic experienced by one who realises that he is being drawn inexorably into a clabby (q.v.) conversation, i.e. one he has no hope of enjoying, benefiting from or understanding.

    and

    NAD (n.)
    Measure defined as the distance between a driver's outstretched fingertips and the ticket machine in an automatic car-park. 1 nad = 18.4 cm.

    ohh and without a doubt..

    SCRAPTOFT (n.)
    The absurd
  • Opendictionary.com
      Search: Prescriptivist

    Prescriptivist: Your search for 'Prescriptivist' did not result in any exact matches. We were able to locate five possible suggestions close to your search query:

            * Prescriptive
            * Prescriptively
            * Prescripts
            * Prescript's
            * Proscriptive
  • There are two kinds of dictionaries in the world: prescriptive, and descriptive. The distinction is not necessarily ideological, as implied by the poster and a number of others in this thread, but functional.

    The classic descriptive dictionary is the OED: it basically lets you know exactly how a word is used, where, and when. Great for dealing with contemporary non-literary texts, minority dialects, and especially historical literary texts. Descriptive dictionaries are anthropological in tone. The purpose

  • Dord (Score:2, Informative)

    I'm waiting for the word "Dord" [snopes.com] to be added.
  • stress (other) : A low quality marijuana.
    I have just a little chronic, but plenty of stress. Stress is cool; I'll smoke that.
    Submitted by: Anonymous Dec. 03, 2005 01:35

    lewinsky (noun) : a slang term for fellatio
    She needed a ride home, but before I even started the car she gave me a lewinsky.
    Submitted by: Anonymous on Dec. 03, 2005 01:35

    bj (noun) : Abbreviation of "blow job". Fellatio.
    Submitted by: Anonymous on Dec. 03, 2005 01:31

    It's good to see some of our most importan

Can't open /usr/games/lib/fortunes.dat.

Working...