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Old 12-30-2012, 06:27 PM   #16
HarryT
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Only one word looked up in my latest book, "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke, and that was the word "seriatim". I thought I knew what it meant, but I looked it up just to be sure.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:39 PM   #17
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Harry my flippant reply was in response to BadBilly's comment which I felt was rather condescending to those who don't routinely use dictionaries while reading. I don't really pity those who use a dictionary - hence the smiley poking out its tongue.

I appreciate that there are many people who love nothing better than reading books full of obscure words however if I can't work out the meaning of a word from its context then I do question its use. Adjectives are difficult in a single usage but are you certain that the shape of this character's head is not described elsewhere in the book? There is the hint of "heavy-looking" in the same sentence but I would expect references to his height, long limbs, lankiness or perhaps the incongruity of a long head on a short fat body? If the character is important I would assume that his physical appearance (expecially if it were abnormal or unusual) would be alluded to more than once. If the character is minor and the shape of his head is not an integral part of the story then who cares?
But that's just me...

FYI you picked the worst possible word to challenge me - I have a degree in Medical Science and so I know that dolicho means long - it's used to describe several parts of the body that are longer than what is considered normal. Cephalic is in more common use so I would expect many if not most people to know it refers to the head. Put the two together and you have a long head.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:01 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by HarleyB View Post
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.
I've been reading since I was three, I have a good vocabulary and there are still some words that I can't get the full meaning of from the context. Also, sometimes it's pure curiousity that sends me to the dictionary. Usuually when the word in question is one that we don't use anymore, or a scientific one.

I think that using the dictionary is fine. As a matter of fact, I think not using it is lazy. And not reading a book because it has "big words" is kind of lazy too.

I read all kinds of books, the airport thrillers to literature. I like to expose my brain to different kinds of writing styles
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:05 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
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.
I'm with you, I enjoy using the dictionary. It's the nerd in me.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:27 PM   #20
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I always felt that communication was to share ideas or information. If a person chooses to use a word or words that the listener won't understand, that isn't clear communication to 'me.' When such a word is needed to clarify an idea or beautify the sounds of the writing, then of course its usage serves a definite purpose. But all too often it's just pretentious. I imagine we all know someone who will never use a small word when a big one will do, especially if they know the listener won't understand.

We all use dictionaries in our own ways to serve our own needs. I'm just glad that they are available to us!


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Old 12-30-2012, 07:44 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voracious71 View Post
I think that using the dictionary is fine. As a matter of fact, I think not using it is lazy. And not reading a book because it has "big words" is kind of lazy too.
This is the type of comment that led to my first post. I have already explained that it was in jest. However I do resent being pitied or being called "lazy" because I don't routinely use a dictionary while reading.

I too read a wide range of books books and my vocabulary is challenged at times. I could press the word with my finger and get an instant definition if I wanted. However I prefer to try to work out what a word means from the context of the sentence, paragraph, chapter, or novel (whatever it takes!) As I indicated earlier that's what I was taught to do when I learnt to read.
Is that really being lazy?
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:26 PM   #22
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Usually I just read pop fiction but I also enjoy authors who write on a college reading level.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:35 PM   #23
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I use the dictionary a ton as I am currently deep into Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and he uses archaic and old English to a great extent. I think it definitely expands my vocabulary as well.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:09 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarleyB View Post
Harry my flippant reply was in response to BadBilly's comment which I felt was rather condescending to those who don't routinely use dictionaries while reading. I don't really pity those who use a dictionary - hence the smiley poking out its tongue.

I appreciate that there are many people who love nothing better than reading books full of obscure words however if I can't work out the meaning of a word from its context then I do question its use.
To be pedantic about it, I was being condescending to people who never read anything that challenges their vocabulary. If you need to guess at words, you're not doing that. That's how I used to read, as I usually didn't have ready access to a dictionary. Sure, it's often possible, but I've got the tools right there to confirm if my inference is right. I choose to be certain.

Reading, to me, is a way to go places I haven't been, to open up new ideas. I read stuff that doesn't challenge my vocabulary much, if at all, but I also read things that stretch what I know. One can live one's entire life on the same block, never venturing beyond the familiar and some are quite happy to do so. I would find that stultifying, just as I'd find only reading things that never challenged me a sad existence.

I also find the rather anti-intellectual view that anyone using words the reader doesn't already know is "pretentious" pitiably arrogant. Certainly there are authors who shouldn't be allowed near a thesaurus, those who try to inflate their work with less common words, who try to hide deficiencies in thought with dense verbiage. Still, I don't find that as objectionable as the attitude that "if I don't already know it, it isn't worth knowing." I know you didn't suggest this, Harley, but it has also been expressed in this thread.

HarryT, in further reply to your original post, I've just found myself looking up a few words while reading The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester:

raffle: : rubbish; especially : a jumble or tangle of nautical equipment
I was able to infer it from context, but was interested in this new meaning for a familiar word.

puissant: having puissance : powerful
Learned how to pronounce it as well as the definition.

animalcule: a minute usually microscopic organism.
That's a new one on me.

I've read the paper version of this book a few times and I don't remember looking up any of those. I love this book and not looking those words up before didn't ruin it for me, put knowing them increases my appreciation for it. In 232 pages (paper), Bester delivers an epic tale with great economy. His choice of words helps this, conveying nuance and setting tone.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:21 PM   #25
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When I was in high school or maybe college, I came to the conclusion that bad popular fiction was that which was quite easy to read but every once in a while used a word that I was completely unfamiliar with. It's my recollection that this idea came to me while I was reading Leslie Charteris.

It was my suspicion that he deliberately threw in the occasional head-scratcher to make the reader believe that he was a better and more sophisticated writer than the book would lead the reader to believe; and that the book was higher class than it was.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:55 PM   #26
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While I am often able to figure out what words mean by context, I do like being able to just press the word and find out for sure. Also, sometimes I wonder where a word came from, and look it up out of curiousity.

Also, my Sony reader has both American and British English dictionaries. It's great to be able to look up British slang.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:06 PM   #27
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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.
Surely, in that context, he was resting his jaw, and not his skull!

But I wouldn't have known what "dolichocephalic" meant -- and neither did Firefox's spellcheck.


I almost never use a dictionary when I'm reading. On the other hand, I use one all the time when I'm writing.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:19 PM   #28
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It's pretty rare for me to run across a word I don't already know. But I did look up the word "susurrus" on my e-reader once. The other words I looked up turned out to be bad scans

Other memorable words I came across while reading were valetudinarian and eleemosynary.
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:35 AM   #29
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I generally have my iPad within reach when reading and turn to dictionary.com when I need to look something up. The only time I use the Kindle on board dictionary is when I don't have Internet access

I fairly frequently look up mundane words as often there are nuances to meaning and I like to be certain. It's part of the entertainment of reading.

In the old days it was quite tedious. I remember reading Earthly Powers and having to drag a dictionary around with me. Glad those days are over.
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:50 AM   #30
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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.
Do you find unknown words to be the only part of written communication to provide challenge, stimulation, or new ideas? Personally, I find I use an Encyclopedia or Google Search far more than my dictionary. Fortunately, all three are right at hand.


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