Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/6/2009 (2990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Aiming to please library rats and the YouTube generation alike, Wordnik.com paints a real-time picture of the way language is being used -- and in some cases, abused -- on the Internet, with each word's entry supplemented by such tidbits as recent relevant Twitter posts, historical usage statistics, anagrams, examples of online use, audio pronunciation, related Flickr photos and even the term's Scrabble point-value. Think of it as lexicography's answer to the Swiss Army knife.
"People these days, have been conditioned to expect the information they want in real time, instantly," says Wordnik co-founder Erin McKean. "We think we can make the dictionary process transparent so they don't have to wait for a lexicographer to write a definition for them; they can get a pretty good idea of what a word means through these contextual references."
If you look up "inconceivable," for instance, you'll not only see its conventional meaning but also a "tag" for the movie The Princess Bride, in which the word's repeated use by a villain plunked it into the pop culture canon.
"English is a network," says McKean, former editor-in-chief for American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press. "Being a literate person is not so much about what you know, but about how you know things are connected."
Other staff members of the well-pedigreed site include the vice-president of the American Dialect Society and two computational lexicographers, one of whom developed the Oxford English Corpus. But that's not to suggest Wordnik, which is still in beta testing, lacks error.
Statistics on the word "Internet," for example, misleadingly suggest people are only likely to run across the term "a few times a year," while a search for "Google" shows higher frequency of use in the early 1900s than in 2009.
-- Canwest News Service