Words have always interested me. Sometimes I will spend quite some time trying to find just the right word to express my thoughts. I still use a hard copy style dictionary to find the meaning of words even though online dictionaries are available. At the moment I have three dictionaries but one would probably be enough.
Back in 1973 I was studying English at uni. The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary was recommended and my mother gave me a copy for my birthday. It was a gift I have really appreciated over the years.
A few years later I bought myself a copy of the 1976 version of the Heinemann Australian Dictionary. I found this very useful as some colloquial terms are included in this dictionary but not in dictionaries compiled overseas. It has seen much use as is evident by the peeling strips of sticky tape holding it together. Until recently it was usually the dictionary I referred to first when checking words for Hub Garden articles.
Recently I decided I should buy a more up to date dictionary and get out of the seventies. Last week when I was in my local library I spotted a copy of the Macmillan English Dictionary printed in 2007 on the pre-loved shelf. I considered it a bargain at $2.
Dictionaries reflect how times have changed over the past few decades. The word 'internet' isn't in dictionaries from the seventies. In my dictionary from the 21st century not only is 'internet' listed but also
The word 'computer' is listed in my Chambers dictionary as 'a machine or apparatus' used for complex calculations 'dealing with numerical data or with stored items of other information; also used for controlling manufacturing processes, or coordinating parts of a large organisation.'
In my Heinemann dictionary the meaning is 'a person or thing that computes' and 'an electronic machine performing complicated calculations. A digital computer expresses information as digits'.
By 2007 the meaning of computer was 'a machine that stores programs and information in electronic form and can be used for a variety of processes, for example writing, calculating and communicating on the Internet.' Meanings are also given for
Many words such as 'laptop' are not found in my older dictionaries. Words connected to social media, something which is important in the lives of many, won't be found. This is a reminder of how much life has changed.
It is fascinating to note how the meanings of some words have changed or additional meanings have come into being. Language has to change in response to developments in society and lifestyle.
I look at my two older dictionaries and think about putting them in the recycling bin. However, I hesitate to do so as they are a part of history. Perhaps I will keep them for now.
I wrote this article a few years ago. now, in 2020, I never use a hard copy dictionary as it is much easier to look up the meaning of a word online. New words are coming into use all the time and a hard copy dictionary goes out of date so quickly.