I don’t altogether agree with those people who say that an e-dictionary is less “fun” because you don’t happen upon other unexpected words located near the word you are searching for. This story from The Chronicle of Higher Education repeats the charge. I don’t know about most e-dictionaries — I consult the Oxford English Dictionary on-line edition all the time, and find lots of serendipitous stuff in the word list they display on the right hand side of the screen. This list shows a few words immediately before and after the word you’ve searched for, and can be scrolled up or down to allow you (in theory) to scroll your way right through the entire dictionary. Take a look next time you are in your library where they probably have a subscription to the OED. The Chronicle story does go on to tell how Merriam-Webster have introduced a similar scrolling function in their smart phone app and no doubt others will have such a feature too.

One of the interesting features of on-line dictionaries is that the publisher can tell what words are being looked up, including neologisms which may not yet be in the dictionary. As an e-dictionary can be constantly updated, this means that many such new coinages will be findable much sooner than in a print world.

I cannot think that e-dictionaries are not going to thrive. It is just so convenient to be able to look up a word without having to get up from your computer and walk across the room to your print dictionary. Though we should perhaps remember that getting up and walking across the room every now and then is actually essential to good health!

The SHARP listserv brings notice of these five articles from Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, (Vol. 35, 2014), which expand on presentations given at last year’s MLA session on Digital Dictionaries. These are available through Project Muse.

Notice that OUP have backed off from their chief executive’s over-hasty claim a couple of years back that it was unlikely that the next edition of the OED would ever be printed. They now say you never know (not that they’d really say anything that imprecise).