Online Writing Resources (December Recommendations)

In the selection of dictionaries, thesauruses, word processors and other writing-related software, my primary criteria is simplicity, task-specificity and reliability. Below is a list of sites that fit this criteria, paired with notes pertinent to the distinctive attributes of each. All sites and programs listed are free (or have a free version).

Writing Programs:

Apache Open Office Writer (v. 4.1.7). Feature-intensive word-processor. Comparable to Microsoft Word. Download required. Offline functionality w/ regular updates. Whilst the program allows for font integration, exercise caution in uploading highly ornate fonts, which will cause AOOW to run extremely slowly.

Writer: The Internet Typewriter. Minimalistic typewriter emulator (email address is required for account creation). No download required. Offers both online and offline functionality and unlimited document creation. A feature that bares highlighting is its online-offline sychronization, which allows for a offline document to be synched to a online counterpart (for example, if you were writing a novel and experienced a connectivity issue, the program would proceed in offline mode and, when connectivity was restored, upload all new segments of the novel online) and thus, obviates the need for constant file downloading and uploading, so as to secure your progress.

Thesauruses:

Power Thesaurus. Crowdsourced, fast-loading, user-rated, regularly updated and easily navigable, online thesaurus. The site’s best feature (outside of its massive database of 77 million synonyms and nearly as many antonyms) is its side-menus, which allow the user, after searching a desired word or phrase, to move seamlessly between synonyms, antonyms, definitions and examples.

The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate (1997)

“The Highly Selective Dictionary can be thought of as an antidote to the ongoing, poisonous effects wrought by the forces of linguistic darkness—aided by permissive lexicographers who blithely acquiesce to the depredations of unrestrained language butchers.”

 

—Eugene Ehrlich, Preface to The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate.

Eugene Ehrlich’s The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate (Harper Collins, 1997) is a treasure trove of obscure words. The 192 page book is divided into six sections, Acknowledgements, a Preface, Pronunciation Notes, a Introduction and, lastly, The Dictionary proper and features such obtuse and oft-unuttered words as blatherskite (a person given to blathering), dysphemism (a unpleasant or derogatory word or phrase substituted for a more pleasant and less offensive one) and galimatias (confused or unintelligible talk).

One of the unique strengths of the book is its omission of commonplace words whose meaning(s) are widely known (such as “door,” or, “car”). In leaving aside [near]omnipresent words, the book focuses wholly on those words a common English reader is apt not to know, which sets it apart from other reference dictionaries that include words which most, quite simply, will not ever need to look-up. It might also be remarked that the proliferation of the internet, which was not so pronounced upon the writing of the book as it is now, further mitigates the need to include commonplace words in reference dictionaries, given the readiness with which they can be accessed through the web.

However, simply because one can find obscure words online doesn’t mean that one will (in a suitable timeframe, if at all)—hence the importance of having a reference book to hand. To this end, The Highly Selective Dictionary is excellent.


You can find the book online at Thriftbooks, Amazon, or Ebay.


Cover image: Man wearing Gernsback Isolator (invented 1925) at writing desk.

Commonly Confused Words: Demur & Demure

Though demur and demure look similar and are pronounced similarly (sometimes the same),  each have a completely different meaning.

Demur (verb) means: to object, or, take exception.  | “Aren’t you going to try some fruitcake?” He demurred, recoiling from his dish with disgust, “You expect me to eat this? What are you trying to do, kill me? Why, I’ve half-a-mind it’d bite me back!”

Demure (adj.) means: reserved, modest (in a affected way), or, coy. | After the grisly duel concluded, the victor sheathed his blade and gave a demure bow to the crowd.

Words On The Rise: May, 2019

Editor’s note: Words listed below are not necessarily new in any meaningful sense, but are ones which have gained sufficient popularity so as to be included in or considered by, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the Cambridge Dictionaries, or the American Heritage Dictionary, as of 2019.


New dictionary additions and considerations

algocracy – noun [U] UK / US /ˌæl.ˈgɑː.krə.si/ a social system where people are governed and important decisions are made by computer algorithms

bakuchiol – noun [U] /bə.ˈkuːtʃɪ.əl/ an ingredient that occurs naturally in a plant and is used in skincare with the aim of preventing wrinkles

chrono-nutrition – noun [U] UK /ˌkrɒn.ə.njuːˈtrɪʃ.ᵊn/ US /ˌkrɒn.ə.nuːˈtrɪʃ.ᵊn/ a way of eating based on the theory that when we eat, as well as what we eat, has an important influence on our health

geosmin – noun [C] From the science of smell, this word names a chemical element in the recognizable odor of recent rainfall called petrichor

jarfing – noun [U] UK /ˈdʒɑː.fɪŋ/ US /ˈdʒɑːr.fɪŋ/ wearing a jumper (UK) or sweater (US) wrapped around one’s neck and shoulders (from the words jumper and scarf)

lampshading – noun [U] /ˈlæmp.ʃeɪdɪŋ/ wearing a baggy top or short dress with bare legs and sometimes boots

qu·​bit – noun [C] /ˈkyü-bət/ a unit of computing information that is represented by a state of an atom or elementary particle (such as the spin) and can store multiple values at once due to the principles of quantum mechanics

sadfishing – noun [U] /ˈsæd.fɪʃ.ɪŋ/ the practice of writing about one’s unhappiness or emotional problems on social media, especially in a vague way, in order to attract attention and sympathetic responses

shrobing – noun [U] UK /ˈʃrəʊ.bɪŋ/ US /ˈʃroʊ.bɪŋ/ wearing a coat around one’s shoulders (from the words shoulder and robing)

Silicon Gorge – noun [U] UK /ˌsɪl.ɪ.kən.ˈgɔːdʒ/ US /ˌsɪl.ɪ.kən.ˈgɔːrdʒ/ a region in the southwest of England, specifically the area around the city of Bristol, where numerous tech companies are located

stan – noun; verb [C] UK / US /st-ahn/ slangoften disparaging an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan; from Stan, name of such a fan in the song “Stan” (2000) by the American rap artist Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers III)

textavism – noun [U] /ˈtekst.ə.vɪ.zᵊm/ the use of text messages to try to persuade people to act in a way that will achieve a particular result, usually a political or social one