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Old 12-30-2012, 08:53 AM   #1
HarryT
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What words do you look up in the dictionary?

I've seen a number of threads where people have asked why one needs a dictionary on a reader, so I thought I'd keep track of what words I did look up in the Kindle dictionary while reading my most recent book: "The Secret of Annexe 3" by Colin Dexter. Dexter has also written a non-fiction book about solving cryptic crosswords, and is rather fond of using less-than-common words in his books.

Anyway, the words I looked up while reading this book were:

dolichocephalic ("having an oval-shaped skull")
thanatology ("the scientific study of death")
subniveal ("under the snow")
charpoy ("bed")
pterophobia ("fear of flying")

The only word not in the Kindle's dictionary was the last of these, but its meaning was obvious from the content of the sentence.

I'd like to think that my English vocabulary is pretty decent, but I do think it can enhance the enjoyment of a book to know exactly what an author means when he uses a word, even if it can be guessed from context.

Anyone else like to share what words they've looked up?

Last edited by HarryT; 12-30-2012 at 08:57 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:04 AM   #2
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The last words I looked up were;
vituperate
prolix
opprobrious

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Old 12-30-2012, 09:23 AM   #3
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Anyone else like to share what words they've looked up?
I really would like, but I can't. You seem to refer to monolingual dictionaries in your mother tongue but when reading a German book I almost never ever look up a word. What I look up quite regularly are "knowledge things" the book refers to like maps or biographies or historical articles...

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I've seen a number of threads where people have asked why one needs a dictionary on a reader.
I really need a dictionary on a reader but this is for reading books in English or Russian = in a foreign language. I use them in two ways. Sometimes I look up almost every unknown word and sometimes only when I can't get the meaning from the content.
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:41 AM   #4
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I sometimes even look up words where I already can infer the definition by context but want to know the "dictionary definition" as an added bonus.
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:44 AM   #5
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The most frequent usage I make of the Kindle dictionary is to look up the British (sometimes also Canadian) usage of English words. These may or may not be archaic.

I cannot always pick up the meaning in context. I often read 19th and 20th century British authors and am a born and bred American, so that explains my ignorance.

This morning I looked up serviette, which we call napkin.

An American writer that has sent me to the dictionary this year is Ed McBain. He had a rich vocabulary which he used to paint vivid descriptions.

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Old 12-30-2012, 10:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
What words do you look up in the dictionary?
The ones I do not know.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:06 PM   #7
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The ready access to dictionaries is one of the top three reasons for using an e-reader (portability and easy acquisition of books are the others). As a writer, I'm interested in the structure, vocabulary, and grammar of what I read as well as the story. I do have an extensive vocabulary but using a dictionary to look up either words I don't know or words that are being used in an unusual way gives me a richer understanding of English. As a pedant, that's important.

The last book that I read extensively on the e-reader, before my wife permanently commandeered it, was Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. Mr. Conrad used English words I didn't know, used the ones I did know in uncommon, secondary or tertiary definition ways. He also had a fair bit of Spanish, some French, a touch of Italian, and, maybe some German in there. I was using a Sony T1 and the multiple multilingual dictionaries really were great. Having access to all the dictionaries made it a much richer experience.

On the other hand, I often use my phone as a reader on my commute to and from work and, since the commandeering of the T1, in bed. None of the reader apps I use integrate as well with dictionaries and they need a network connection to access the dictionaries so I'm out of luck when I'm on the subway (aka metro). I do have some dictionary apps on my phone and I'll use those if I really want to learn a word, but it's more cumbersome, going out of the reader, opening the dictionary, checking the word, then going back to the book. I was so impressed with the ease of using the dictionary that I specified to my wife that I wanted a T1 as my Christmas present as the T2 has fewer dictionaries.

Frankly, I would pity anyone who didn't see the need for dictionaries in a reader. They must be reading stuff that provides no challenge, no stimulation, and no new ideas.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:17 PM   #8
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Last I looked up were British words -chappie, rummy, bally, top hole, colliery, rotter.

specie
excrescence
atavistic
tazza
defalcate

and several Latin and Greek words

Last edited by Fbone; 12-30-2012 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:43 PM   #9
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Frankly, I would pity anyone who didn't see the need for dictionaries in a reader. They must be reading stuff that provides no challenge, no stimulation, and no new ideas.
Really? Maybe they read authors that have no need to hide behind a wall of pretentious pseudo-intellectual artificial word monsters but can write their story in a clear and easy and fluent language.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:24 PM   #10
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Frankly, I would pity anyone who didn't see the need for dictionaries in a reader. They must be reading stuff that provides no challenge, no stimulation, and no new ideas.
I get sufficient challenge, stimulation and new ideas from my reading without ever resorting to a dictionary. When I learnt to read I also learnt to work out the meaning of new words from their context.

I consider using a dictionary cheating and pity anyone who can't read a book without cheating!


Of course those reading in a second or subsequent language have the right to any assistance they may require.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:25 PM   #11
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The only word I've needed to look up since I started e-reading was "kike". Apparently I'm quite sheltered. In fact, I think I'd be happier not having looked it up.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:06 PM   #12
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I get sufficient challenge, stimulation and new ideas from my reading without ever resorting to a dictionary. When I learnt to read I also learnt to work out the meaning of new words from their context.
OK, a challenge for you. In the Colin Dexter book I referred to in my first post, we have the sentence:

Quote:
Soon the two old friends were seated facing each other in the lounge bar, the surgeon resting his heavy-looking dolichocephalic skull upon his left hand.
Can you explain how you would know the meaning of the extremely obscure word "dolichocephalic" without looking it up in the dictionary? It's obvious from the context that it's some adjective describing a skull, but I honestly can't see how anyone could know what it actually meant unless they looked it up.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:37 PM   #13
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Is the shape of the surgeon's skull even important to the story? If not, describing it with such an obscure word just seems like bad writing to me. I'm not saying that all words should be simple and easy, but why make your readers go to the dictionary to understand something like that? Bah, humbug! It's stuff like this that encourages readers to not even bother looking up words they don't understand.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:45 PM   #14
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Ironically, I've recently had to go to the dictionary to find out the meanings of words used in definitions in Burt's Polish-English dictionary (written in the 19th century). Words like furuncle and siskin.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:18 PM   #15
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Is the shape of the surgeon's skull even important to the story? If not, describing it with such an obscure word just seems like bad writing to me. I'm not saying that all words should be simple and easy, but why make your readers go to the dictionary to understand something like that? Bah, humbug! It's stuff like this that encourages readers to not even bother looking up words they don't understand.
I feel exactly the opposite; books that use a rich vocabulary, as Colin Dexter does, enrich my vocabulary by encouraging me to look up the meaning of words that I haven't previously encountered.
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