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Old 05-15-2010, 12:43 AM   #61
GrouchoM
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I would also recommend History of English Documentary.
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Old 05-15-2010, 02:12 AM   #62
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I just checked out The Teaching Company. Okay, now I know what I'm saving my pennies for. I want ... I WANT!!! Actually, I want it all, but I'll settle for the linguistics lectures. And maybe the ones on medieval history. Oh, and calculus, I'll need that. Now all I have to do is win the lottery....

I've read several books on the history of English because it absolutely fascinates me; I want that lecture series in the worst way. You can blame Wamba the Witless for that, and his jabbering about how Gurth's swine are going to be turned into Normans. When I was about 9 or 10, I got my hands on Ivanhoe, and since nobody told me it was supposed to be a) boring, and b) too hard for a kid to read, I devoured it. How could something that was so full of knights and battles and burning castles and Robin Hood -- Robin Freakin' Hood! -- be boring? It remains one of my favorite books to this day. And it was Wamba whose observations on the use of Saxon words for live animals versus Norman words for their meat that got the fascination started. If my life had gone differently, I might have been very happy as a linguist.

I always get a laugh out of people who are looking for some kind of "pure" English. It's multiple languages bodged together, and the seams show. That's what makes it simultaneously accessible and daunting. It's very easy to learn English at the "me Tarzan, you Jane" level -- its origin as a pidgin sees to that -- and fiendishly difficult at a really in-depth level, because there's not a lot of consistency in whether a word came from Anglo-Saxon, or Norman-French, or got randomly grabbed from some other language entirely. This habit of beating up other languages in dark alleys and rifling through their pockets for loose vocabulary is why English has ten words for everything, each of which has a slightly different shade of meaning.

The people who choose to learn only the simple words, the people who are satisfied with one word for all possible shades of its meaning ... I really pity them. I honestly do. It must be like eating a fine meal when you have a horrible head cold. You can still taste the basics -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami -- but all the nuances are gone. No wonder they don't like to read. The people with the strong reading vocabularies are sitting down to five-course meals prepared by master chefs, and the people without them are stuck with takeout from McDonald's (with head colds) and don't even know what they're missing.

It's disturbing how mainstream anti-intellectualism has become. People who actually use the right word for the meaning they're trying to express are belittled, and it seems the language of common discourse has become little more than grunts and the occasional flinging of feces. Even here ... look at some posts in this thread, like Groucho mocking me ... "you know the meaning of every word in the English language?" ... because I said I didn't have to rely on a dictionary to read ordinary books. Obviously a real person, an authentic person -- the salt of the earth, the common clay of the New West -- wouldn't be so intellectually elitist as to understand more words than can be found on an episode of Three's Company.

Nobody sneers at someone because they want to eat something that tastes better than McCardboard, or to wear something that looks nicer than shabby jeans and T-shirts advertising various computer products (e.g., my wardrobe). So why is it that in the very thing that makes us human -- our ability to use language -- those who use and appreciate words are objects of derision?
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Old 05-15-2010, 03:05 AM   #63
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I agree almost everything you said there, but jeez let it go man. And when was I mocking you with that statement? It was not specifically pointed at anyone. I guess your reading skills are not as great as you claim. Get off your high horse; I didn't know someone could be so insecure and pretentious at the same time.

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Old 05-15-2010, 03:15 AM   #64
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I edit for a living and my vocabulary is pretty good. I love to look up words; always have. With print books, sometimes I'd get distracted while looking up words and end up reading other definitions, word origins and such. I'm rarely stumped, but I still like looking things up. Yes, I'm weird. I love words and language.
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Old 05-15-2010, 03:29 AM   #65
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That's the danger of a paper dictionary: You look up a word ... and then read another word ... and another ... and an hour later, you've forgotten what you went to look up in the first place. It's kind of a physical implementation of the tvtropes.org time sink. Or maybe tvtropes should be called a temporal black hole.

For good or bad (depending on whether you're trying to actually get somewhere with the book, or just want to go dictionary surfing) the usual electronic dictionary doesn't do that. It just gives you a cold, bare definition, and where's the fun in that?

Groucho, knock it off with the insults. They're getting more childish by the minute.
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Old 05-15-2010, 04:10 AM   #66
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I am not insulting you at all, like I said more than once, I agree with you. I just find it surprising how a person who goes on to criticize the current education system and how reading is taught can't even understand a simple post. I guess I'm going to have to post a 300 word response with a lot of philosophizing and thinly concealed insults and straw mans to make it up to you.

First of all if you read my initial post
Quote:
So people who don't need a dictionary, I'm assuming you know the meaning of every word in the English language?
Now lets break it down shall we. That response was posted after some people said the dictionary was a completely useless feature just thrown in their, that somehow added to the price. Nowhere in my entire post do I advocate anti intellectualism or deride those who have over 9000 words in their vocabulary. It simply stated, a; that the dictionary function was great for people who read in more than one languages, and b; for people reading challenging books in fields they might not be familiar with.

You seem to think anyone who does not have an ubber large vocabulary is a decadent who should be ashamed to admit it on a public forum. And I'll say it again, I'm not somehow advocating anti intellectualism, on the contrary I want to learn that is why I think the dictionary is a great feature. I'm all for people like you who have a massive vocabulary, I just hope you use it to say something worthwhile and meaningful instead of distorting other peoples' views only to show off your imaginary intellectual superiority.

Have a great day.
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Old 05-15-2010, 08:19 AM   #67
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This is a forum with a huge and very diverse membership. So of course people will have different points of view ; that's what makes conversation interesting here. For this reason it's all the more important to be polite and respectful to everyone when participating.

I am sure you have all read our guidelines, and remember particularly the first one :

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Don’t say, “You’re an idiot,” or “anyone who thinks that is crazy.” Instead, say, “I disagree,” or better still, “I disagree because…”

Try to understand what someone else is saying before you react. Because we are an international forum, we have a wide diversity of cultural backgrounds, traditions, and legal systems. Remember that other members may have different laws and practices. Also remember that humor often translates poorly across languages and cultures; try to be sensitive to others when you post, and tolerant of others when you read their posts.

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Please keep it civil ! Thanks all.
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:08 AM   #68
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Originally Posted by Worldwalker View Post
For good or bad (depending on whether you're trying to actually get somewhere with the book, or just want to go dictionary surfing) the usual electronic dictionary doesn't do that. It just gives you a cold, bare definition, and where's the fun in that?

.
Ummm, my Sony's dictionary, if you tap on the dictionary icon next to the cold, bare definition, will take you to an ebook page that is exactly like a normal paper dictionary. With hyperlinks to synonyms and such. Haven't come across any illustrations, but I don't find dictionary illustrations all that helpful, generally. Perhaps before you continue to disparage those of us who enjoy our on-board dictionaries (note, I did not say need, I said enjoy), you should try one.

I enjoy mine for all the reasons you seem to hold dear. I want to read things that are "above my grade level" and learn from them. I want to learn more about the words that I THINK I know, origins, alternate meanings, synonyms (which, yes, my Sony's dictionary HAS if you ask for it, which takes half a second). I do not want to be like my high school English teacher who pronounced "Charybdis" "Char-ah-BEED-eze" or my Vet school Anesthesia prof who spelled the device that holds oxygen takes on an anesthetic machine "yolks". I bet they never felt the need to look things up in a dictionary on a regular basis, either.
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:53 AM   #69
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That's the danger of a paper dictionary: You look up a word ... and then read another word ... and another ... and an hour later, you've forgotten what you went to look up in the first place. It's kind of a physical implementation of the tvtropes.org time sink. Or maybe tvtropes should be called a temporal black hole.
...
Or Wikipedia on the Kindle. But it's all part of the fun of learning new words and facts.

With modern fiction in my own language I've yet to read any on my e-book readers, but I usually don't feel the need to look words in Danish in any other case either, so I would probably not miss it that much if I - hypothetically - couldn't look up words in a Danish dictionary while reading a Danish book
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Old 05-15-2010, 02:17 PM   #70
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I think on board dictionaries are wonderful - the idea of just double tapping a word seems like simplicity itself. I wish they would expand them further to utilise all the data available ie a thesaurus, an encyclopaedia, links to web based dictionaries, links to wikipedia, I'd like to see images as well so I could click on a city or country name and see exactly where it is. They could also expand the dictionaries with additions just for the book you are reading so that you could get a quick précis about any individual character, places or graphic maps where applicable. I certainly don't feel embarrassed about needing to use a dictionary - without the computer's dictionary I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to even decipher this message.
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Old 05-15-2010, 03:25 PM   #71
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Before letting lengthy encyclopedia articles which might distract you from your reading inside the thing, there is something with more potential of convenience and, in general, more WIN, which still hasn't been even rumored to be included in readers: technical dictionaries and glossaries.

I can picture many an economist having an orgasm if s/he can have the Palgrave dictionary in the tip of his/her fingers, and M.Ds could make great use of their vademecum books. Now THAT would be a big leap forward.
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Old 05-15-2010, 05:45 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by ziegl027 View Post
Perhaps before you continue to disparage those of us who enjoy our on-board dictionaries (note, I did not say need, I said enjoy), you should try one.

.
The dictionaries are what is being disparaged, not the people using them.

Paper dictionaries allow you to wander down the garden path of words and definitions, causing you to totally forget that you were actually doing something else before you opened up the dictionary. You lose that experience with electronic dictionaries by their very design. That, I think, is the point being made. It's a useful tool, I don't think anyone here is denying that, but it hasn't made that leap YET into something more than a tool. It's not going to subconsciously increase your vocabulary or knowledge, as say Wikipedia-access on a Kindle would, because it doesn't really lead you beyond your initial search.

I give kudos to people who do actually use the dictionary function on their readers because they are getting the most out of their reading experience. We are all readers here, who by our natures, love words. I think the comparisons made in other posts refer to those people who would rather do anything but read and who take pride in that fact. I'm sure we've all heard "what-are-you-doing-sitting-there-with-your-face-in-a-book-when-it's-such-a-beautiful-day-outside" a few times in our lives from those folks. Those are the people who've never really learned what useful, beautiful and precise tools words can be.

Quote:
This habit of beating up other languages in dark alleys and rifling through their pockets for loose vocabulary is why English has ten words for everything, each of which has a slightly different shade of meaning.
ROTFLMAO! That is such a great definition of the evolution of the English language!
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:55 PM   #73
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I wish I could take credit for the quote about the dark alleys, but it's not mine; thank James D. Nicoll. The full quote is "We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." Or so says WikiQuote; variants abound. That's one of my favorite quotes on the origin of English; another is H. Beam Piper's (from Fuzzy Sapiens, if I recall correctly): "English is the result of Norman men-at-arms attempting to pick up Saxon barmaids and is no more legitimate than any of the other results."
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Old 05-16-2010, 07:21 AM   #74
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WW, somewhere, in one of those books on the origins of English, is the reason why we have different words for the same things, especially on the farm and in the kitchen. As I recall it, post 1066, the Normans (who had suddenly become the boss people) called the cooked equivalents of farm animals by their French/Norman names 'porc', 'boeuf' - soon to become 'pork' and 'beef' - but the Anglo-Saxons, just as suddenly relegated to the lower divisions, retained 'pig' and 'cow'. Also, the more common trades tended to keep their Anglo-Saxon names - shoemaker, baker, miller - while the more skilled trades adopted the French terms - painter, tailor, mason. And so the two languages merged, together, of course, with those words from anywhere and everywhere the English roamed. The French prevent 'foreign' words from entering their language by Committee, the English open their language up to all-comers who can lay claim to having a word adopted by the people. Small wonder that English is the language chosen across the world for administration, business and communication purposes. That's why it's so fascinating to use and why the English are the worst people by far to bother to learn someone else's language - lazy sods that we are (I'm generalising here, but I do include myself, who can only boast a smattering of an obscure African language that I had to learn by necessity!)

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Old 05-16-2010, 07:51 AM   #75
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WW, somewhere, in one of those books on the origins of English, is the reason why we have different words for the same things, especially on the farm and in the kitchen. As I recall it, post 1066, the Normans (who had suddenly become the boss people) called the cooked equivalents of farm animals by their French/Norman names 'porc', 'boeuf' - soon to become 'pork' and 'beef' - but the Anglo-Saxons, just as suddenly relegated to the lower divisions, retained 'pig' and 'cow'. Also, the more common trades tended to keep their Anglo-Saxon names - shoemaker, baker, miller - while the more skilled trades adopted the French terms - painter, tailor, mason. And so the two languages merged, together, of course, with those words from anywhere and everywhere the English roamed. The French prevent 'foreign' words from entering their language by Committee, the English open their language up to all-comers who can lay claim to having a word adopted by the people. Small wonder that English is the language chosen across the world for administration, business and communication purposes. That's why it's so fascinating to use and why the English are the worst people by far to bother to learn someone else's language - lazy sods that we are (I'm generalising here, but I do include myself, who can only boast a smattering of an obscure African language that I had to learn by necessity!)

MJ
I thought the reason English was chosen is because England imposed it on all the countries it invaded and conquered during its empire days and therefore many countries, to some extent, have it as a secondary language in common. That and the fact that the USA speaks English and for much of the 20th century have been the economic, military and political powerhouse of the world. Therefore any country wishing to do business with the biggest economic and political influence on the world found it advantageous to learn english.

I don't really think it has much to do with any inherent advantage or openess of the english language.

Cheers,
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