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Thread: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

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    Senior Member Fermata's Avatar
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    Default Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    We are all used to the speed of Google for looking up words to check their meaning or spelling, I cannot remember the last time that I reached for a dictionary so this article in the New York Times had some appeal.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/m...mendation.html


    The writer reminds the reader of the Thumb Index, and illustrates one perfectly, the magic of holding your thumb in place as your left hand lifted a great wad of paper through an arc for you to read on. Hopeless for a left hander.

    This brought back the memory of the Sunday hour. Around 6pm each sunday we had an hour where the TV and radio were silent and the whole family read, a novel, an improving magazine or any reference book. I reached for the Funk and Wagnalls encyclopaedia and surfed - not that this was an appropriate word at the time - subject to subject. This was a two volume set and weighed as much as I did, how I would have welcomed a thumb index at the time.

    eta. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why the NYT chop the tails off lower case letters, for example within the article the writer has tried to use the word conveyed but this appears as conveved, which had me reaching for a dictionary.
    Last edited by Fermata; September 14th, 2021 at 08:51 PM. Reason: a postscript

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    I admit that I will google a word that I'm having trouble spelling if I'm in the middle of typing something. That's simply a matter of convenience. But, the Oxford English Dictionary and The Oxford English Encyclopaedic Dictionary are on a shelf next to my desk --- and I use them.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by Fermata View Post
    eta. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why the NYT chop the tails off lower case letters, for example within the article the writer has tried to use the word conveyed but this appears as conveved, which had me reaching for a dictionary.
    This is likely the way that your browser renders the font(s) chosen by the NYT design team. Your browser will fallback through a list trying to find the best match, and if all else fails, will alight on your default serif. You can see how my browser renders it:

    nyt.png

    Their declaration is:

    HTML Code:
    font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,'times new roman',times,serif
    If you play with the zoom settings on the rendered page, it might start showing correctly.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    I admit that I will google a word that I'm having trouble spelling if I'm in the middle of typing something. That's simply a matter of convenience. But, the Oxford English Dictionary and The Oxford English Encyclopaedic Dictionary are on a shelf next to my desk --- and I use them.
    I have the SOED on my desk, but use sdcv to display the required entries from the full OED: it is much faster, even with the thumb index
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    I much prefer to use a physical version of both dictionary and thesaurus, and this is probably because they form part of my formative years and represent very specific contexts. Like a lot of people I also prefer very specific versions. Although from the UK I prefer to use Chambers dictionaries, and Roget's International Thesaurus. Of course I can just as easily use any other English language versions, but those feel right to me.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by silverlifter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fermata View Post
    eta. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why the NYT chop the tails off lower case letters, for example within the article the writer has tried to use the word conveyed but this appears as conveved, which had me reaching for a dictionary.
    This is likely the way that your browser renders the font(s) chosen by the NYT design team. Your browser will fallback through a list trying to find the best match, and if all else fails, will alight on your default serif. You can see how my browser renders it:

    nyt.png

    Their declaration is:

    HTML Code:
    font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,'times new roman',times,serif
    If you play with the zoom settings on the rendered page, it might start showing correctly.

    Thank you for that, it was something I had not considered at all.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    I am a literature teacher. I am down to just one paper dictionary in my classroom, sad to say. When it goes, I will not pay to replace it. I rarely consult it.

    Sent from my moto g power using Tapatalk

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    I am a literature teacher. I am down to just one paper dictionary in my classroom, sad to say. When it goes, I will not pay to replace it. I rarely consult it.

    Sent from my moto g power using Tapatalk
    Similar situation, one of my reference books is the Oxford Companion to English Literature, bound in green leather and with a slip case, a really beautiful book, i haven't opened it in years.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    I should add that I have three paper dictionaries at home (earlier I was referring to my classroom), one of which is the condensed version of the OED. When https://www.etymonline.com/ does not suffice, I consult the OED. But reading it, even with a magnifying glass, is challenging for these 60+ yr-old eyes. I got that version (two volume) for free when I joined the Book-of-the-Month Club (Camp Hill, PA) my sophomore year of college. It was the only reason I joined. That "club" sucked.

    Addendum #2: The thumb-indexed dictionaries of my youth always signified heft and authority: these were always the larger dictionaries with more erudite phrasing of the definitions.

    Remember "pocket dictionaries"? WRONG!
    Last edited by TSherbs; Today at 06:32 AM. Reason: I can't type

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    I should add that I have three paper dictionaries at home (earlier I was referring to my classroom), one of which is the condensed version of the OED. When https://www.etymonline.com/ does not suffice, I consult the OED. But reading it, even with a magnifying glass, is challenging for these 60+ yr-old eyes. I got that version (two volume) for free when I joined the Book-of-the-Month Club (Camp Hill, PA) my sophomore year of college. It was the only reason I joined. That "club" sucked.

    Addendum #2: The thumb-indexed dictionaries of my youth always signified heft and authority: these were always the larger dictionaries with more erudite phrasing of the definitions.

    Remember "pocket dictionaries"? WRONG!

    We may see the end of dictionaries and encyclopaedias within a few years, especially the classic English-French language dictionaries, all replaced by an app.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by Fermata View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    I should add that I have three paper dictionaries at home (earlier I was referring to my classroom), one of which is the condensed version of the OED. When https://www.etymonline.com/ does not suffice, I consult the OED. But reading it, even with a magnifying glass, is challenging for these 60+ yr-old eyes. I got that version (two volume) for free when I joined the Book-of-the-Month Club (Camp Hill, PA) my sophomore year of college. It was the only reason I joined. That "club" sucked.

    Addendum #2: The thumb-indexed dictionaries of my youth always signified heft and authority: these were always the larger dictionaries with more erudite phrasing of the definitions.

    Remember "pocket dictionaries"? WRONG!

    We may see the end of dictionaries and encyclopaedias within a few years, especially the classic English-French language dictionaries, all replaced by an app.
    My school library has already begun to see the end of paper versions of all books. Every year is a purge and a greater investment in digital platforms. We are still purchasing new books in paper, but it is a war of attrition, and paper is losing.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    I have several paper dictionaries, all still quite well used. The Chambers is my usual quick reference and we use the Concise Oxford for Scrabble. My personal favourite is the seven-volume Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary of 1895 which gives a wonderful snapshot of the language at that time and remains useful for the wealth of definition and derivation.

    I fully accept that after my time no-one is likely to want these books. They're coming to the end of their time, as am I, but I'll continue to enjoy them.

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    Default Re: Dictionaries and the Thumb Index

    Quote Originally Posted by eachan View Post
    I have several paper dictionaries, all still quite well used. The Chambers is my usual quick reference and we use the Concise Oxford for Scrabble. My personal favourite is the seven-volume Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary of 1895 which gives a wonderful snapshot of the language at that time and remains useful for the wealth of definition and derivation.

    I fully accept that after my time no-one is likely to want these books. They're coming to the end of their time, as am I, but I'll continue to enjoy them.

    There is always the concern, in my mind at least, what will happen to my books, my tools - some of which are over 100 years old, the things I treasure. a friend of mine in his 80s has an old single cylinder motorcycle in his garage that he bought new in 1968, he knows perfectly that his children will not want it, much less know how to start it.

    I just hope that the skills of making fine quality case bound/stitched books is retained in some shape or form.

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