Need to know the meaning of a word? Just open your word processing program, type the word in, right click—the answer appears. That dictionary connected with MSWord is the greatest thing ever—except, of course, when it isn’t. (I’m assuming others are similar.)
I need a classier way to say “classy,” I right-click, choose “synonyms” and get eight choices with “elegant” right at the top. Simple.
I need a better way to say “a shout broke the silence,” I right-click on broke and get “penniless, poor, destitute….”—all good adjectives but not a single verb use. Not any clue as to what “he broke horses all his life” or “she broke the track’s record” could mean. (Right- click “record” to get “best, greatest, top, highest…” as though there were no records for errors or absences or crimes.)
And many words—like “trapeze,” “bazooka,” “comma,” and even “toe”– don’t have any synonyms listed.
Fortunately, the solution is at my fingertips. Instead of choosing “synonym” after right-clicking, I can choose “look up.” There I can get 3,550,000 entries for “trapeze,” the first of which points out that it is the #1 swingers club in the nation.
Okay, an old-fashioned dictionary looks pretty good about now. In fact, with my experience as a parent and a middle school teacher, I am shuddering. It’s bad enough when the kids sneak a dictionary out during break to laugh over the definitions of “dirty” words. Now—thanks to MSWord setting bing as the default look up option—we can teach kids that every word has a “dirty” meaning.
I can, however, fix things with just one additional click. If I’m fast enough, I can click “Encarta dictionary” in the “look up” options. If is miss that, I can hit the down arrow beside “trapeze” in the box that opens. There I can find that”trapeze” is a noun referring to a horizontal bar attached to the ends of two ropes which is used for gymnastics or acrobatics. One simple, solid definition.
I used Encarta for the twenty vocabulary words listed in the Unit One study guide for Desiderata and found the first or second definition usually worked; there was even a good definition of Saxons. For the one exception—Bavaria—I clicked the down arrow again to search “all reference books” to find the answer. All right there at my finger tips.
So I went back to my original phrase—“a shout broke the silence.” Encarta points out that ”broke” can be the past tense of the verb “break”—for which it provides fifty definitions. Yes, fifty—including knocking over a wicket in cricket, speeding ahead of others in a race, emerging through the surface of water, and flowing out of liquid during childbirth
English. You gotta love it. Half again as many words as any other language in the world and yet some words have fifty—or more—meanings.