Remember looking up words in a Dictionary? I have always loved the ancillary words and pictures that catch the eye while flipping through to look up . . . say. . . “digress.” Hmm, ” Adzuki bean”. . . I saw that last week when I was looking up shelf lives. . . think it was 15 years. . . what IS an adzuki bean anyway?. . . “Bridalveil” as one word. . . YES!. . . it IS the falls at Yosemite. . . so ethereal and beautiful. . . and the unforgettable sound it makes. . . oops. . . “dill pickle”. . . too far. . . . of course I know what a dill pickle is, but I wonder what the dictionary says . . . keep going. . . ah yes. . . “to stray from the main subject in writing or speaking.”
Using a dictionary is like taking a car ride on an unknown scenic road. The colorful scenes flashing by add texture and dimension to the journey. There is something to look at on the way, making the trip more interesting.
If you’re reading this, you are probably using Encarta or one of the other wonderful online dictionaries that also pronounce the words for you. Looking up all of the phonetic symbols to determine pronunciation has never been one of my favorite digressions. I like being able to press the button over and over hoping that this time it will firmly implant. (I am not going to digress on multiple acceptable pronunciations. Getting it in the ballpark is my goal. Someone else can deal with the subtle nuances of the rules of that game.)
Using an online dictionary is a car trip using a GPS. There is a voice to keep us focused on the destination. There are no serendipitous diversions on this journey and even the side trips are decisions. If we misspell “digres”, we are asked, “did you mean digress?” It’s underlined and in one click we are there. If it’s a monumental misspelling, we might even get several possible “did you mean?” destinations. This is all very well and good if in a hurry, but I would hate to have missed dill pickle and Bridalveil. It is so nice to have (and to take) the time to do both.