I grew up with dictionaries. I have had my own dictionary for as long as I can remember. Even now, when I walk by one of those BIG dictionaries on a pedestal in the library, with the leather binding and almost translucent thin paper, I will run my finger down the page and read the words. I am usually looking for some word I haven’t heard of, or an etymology of a word I was unaware of, but curious about, and sometimes just to remind myself of words I already know. There continues to be something alluring about the book, and the form of the book as a vessel of knowledge.
Because of this intimate, longstanding affair with books, I have to admit to being slow to commit to any one dictionary online. My searches for meaning online have become more opportunistic, focused, yet strangely scattered, and entirely dependent upon where in the world I am when I am searching and which search engine I am using. The variety did not bother me because there was nothing particular about any of the online dictionary platforms, they could have all been the same because they felt the same. And then last fall, I saw Merriam-Webster across a crowded twitter-scape, and I caught my breath and thought, I never knew how much we needed a dictionary in our social lives at this moment. They won me over with tweets like:
We’re seeing a spike for both ‘ombre’ and ‘hombre’. Not the same thing. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hombre …#debatenight
*whispers into the void* In contemporary use, fact is understood to refer to something with actual existence. https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/conway-alternative-facts-20170122 …
I went from being an occasional user of @MerriamWebster to subscribing and following them. On March 16 I recognized my growing need to touch base with the dictionary as I read the FY18 Budget proposal from the White House. As I looked through it, excavating the many meanings embedded in words used, I felt like I was engaged in some paranoid action, but it was the best way not to panic and gave me a feeling of control through words. I found myself thinking at various points during my read of the budget proposal: words have multiple meanings and interpretations; words can combat words; we just need a good argument made of specific words; words, words, words… (although to be fair, the cynic in me rolled her eyes at the idea that the current White House even cared about words).
It is probably the only thing I do have access to, words and arguments. But where and how those words are used, needs to be reassessed and re-imagined (for example, see a recent post by Alex on intervening on Wikipedia here). I don’t think we’ve (collectively as Anthropologists) have figured it out yet, but @MerriamWebster has hit their stride.