Category: Wordsmyth Blog
Meet the “Dame of Dictionaries.”
“I read and read and read and read and read,” she says. In fifth grade, her parents gave her a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and that changed everything. “It unlocked the world for me because I could read at any vocabulary level I wanted,” she says, and went on to negotiate more sophisticated titles, like Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and The Frogs by Aristophanes. She was diligent about learning words, and would enter all the new ones she came across daily in a notebook. Then she would review them, trying to commit them to memory. The next day, she would add ten or fifteen more, review the words from the prior day, and at the end of each week review the entire week. She carried on this routine for years.”
Her West Village loft is home to 20,000 dictionaries, collected over a lifetime. She is the “Dame of Dictionaries,” Madeline Kripke. Daniel Krieger’s fine article about Kripke is peppered with links to dictionary lore. Read it here.
1. of lumber, having a grain that runs across or diagonally to the length.
2. (informal) stubborn or hard to deal with.
In Latin, focus means “hearth” or “fireplace.” It entered English in the 1600s as a word for the point where rays of light meet. The meaning “center of activity or energy” came into use in the 1700s. Because the hearth was for centuries the center of home life, it is not surprising that, today, several of the meanings of focus have something to do with a center or meeting point.
If you enjoyed this word history, try looking up these words in the Word Explorer Dictionary for Children: weird, compassion, barbecue, curfew, and gossip. Some of these histories will surprise you!
1. a medicine with undisclosed ingredients, advertised without proof as an effective cure; quack remedy.
example: William Radam’s “Microbe Killer,” a nostrum sold in the 1890s, made the claim “Cures all Diseases.” (more…)
Meet your free Wordsmyth Dictionary Widget
The Wordsmyth Blog now comes accessorized with the nifty Wordsmyth Dictionary Widget. The Dictionary Widget is also available free from our website (here). Because it needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated, we’ve made it easy for you to try it here on our blog pages.
Try it here, now
1. Look in the upper right corner of this page. You’ll see the widget with a search box.
2. Double-click on any word on this page–a word in this or the following sentence, for example: Don’t clutter my etagere with your gimcracks!
3. You’ll see the word you clicked on appear in the widget search box, and, lo and behold, a concise entry for the word will appear in the widget. The concise entry includes pronunciation, audio pronunciation, part of speech, definitions, examples, and even images. To view the complete entry (with synonyms, antonyms, and derived words), click on the ‘See full entry’ link.
4. Don’t like the widget in the upper right corner? You can drag it to any spot in the window and it will stay there unless you move it. You can also shrink or expand the widget window, or close it, by clicking on the icons in the upper right corner of the widget. If you close the widget, it will remain closed until you double-click on a word. The diagonal arrow is another way to go to the full dictionary entry.
Look up any word on any webpage
If you would like to be able to look up any word on any web page in the same way, visit our widget page at the Comprehensive Dictionary or the Word Explorer Dictionary for Children. All you have to do to install it is drag the link for the Wordsmyth Floater or Wordsmyth Pop-up Widget to your browser toolbar. (For more information, see our FAQ.)
Let us know what you (or your students) think!