The last week of summer vacation, I cleaned off my son's desk and neatly placed a dictionary between two bookends on the corner. For my friends in cyberspace, I present these handy reference works for your virtual desktop. Have a great school year!
As a hobby, the English physician Dr. Peter Roget liked to make lists of related words. In 1852, he published his first thesaurus, or treasury of words. It's been an invaluable resource to writers ever since. As Mark Twain said: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." This electronic version allows you to search the headwords (categories) and the full text of Roget's Thesaurus version 1.02 (supplemented in 1991).
William Strunk, Jr., a professor of English at Cornell University, self-published "Elements of Style" in 1918, to use in his classroom. It contains rules of grammar, phrased as direct commands. "Omit needless words." "Use the active voice." "Keep related words together." It is as relevant today as when it was first written.
Ever come across a word that doesn't mean what you thought it did? Jesse Sheidlower, a senior editor at Random House, tackles a word a day, explaining its etymology and usage. Did you know the word "nerd" dates to 1950 when it first appeared in Dr. Seuss' "If I Ran the Zoo"? "I'll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo a Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!" Be sure to browse the listing of previous words.
Let's make a rhyme. It won't take time. I'll show you how. We'll do it now. Just enter your word; for example: 'absurd'. You'll get a list. This can't be missed! What's this you say? You're in dismay? Need a dictionary, right away? Just point and click, this sure is quick, 'cause Webster's there to help you pick. So go right now, you do know how, and start to pen, a po-oh- em.
Webster has gone Web! You can't thumb through the pages, but you can surf from word to word with the hyperlinked cross-references. And if there is a Merriam-Webster Thesaurus entry for your word, it is also just a click away. If you misspell a word, the server offers a list of close matches. Or view a list of potential matches by using the asterisk. For example, "hyper*" provides a list of 261 words from hyper to hypervitaminosis. However, the word I use all the time still isn't listed: hyperlink.