Back to Dictionary
NEVER ASKED QUESTIONS
(Which I Am, Nevertheless, Answering)
PURPOSE AND GOALS
Why did you start your own dictionary?
What do you think is the value of making this lexicon available for others?
How do you imagine others using your dictionary?
Is your dictionary prescriptive (showing how words should be used) or descriptive (showing how words have been used)?
Is this dictionary meant to advocate any political or social agenda?
Are you making any money off of this project?
How can I properly cite a definition from your website?
CONTENT OF THE LEXICON
Are these all real words?
How did you find all these words?
How do you choose whether or not to include a word?
How do your personal biases affect your dictionary?
Is there any area of vocabulary that is currently lacking or that you'd specifically like to bulk up on?
STANDARDS IN DEFINITION QUALITY, FORMAT & STYLE
What are your standards regarding definition format and style?
What are your standards regarding definition quality?
What standards do you have that are distinct from other dictionaries?
What does your process of defining a word entail?
How do you avoid plagiarizing?
Why did you decide to organize your dictionary by part of speech?
Why should I consider you an authority on word usage?
What books (and other resources) have most strongly influenced your philosophy of lexicography?
I notice that some noun pages focus on one letter while others focus on groups of letters in the alphabet. Why is that?
THINGS NOT INCLUDED
Why don't you include common words?
Why don't you include etymology?
Why don't you include pronunciation?
Why don't you include example sentences?
Why don't you include my all-time favorite word that totally belongs in your lexicon?
THE ONLINE EXPERIENCE
What resources do you use for research?
What resources do you use for html coding?
What has been your experience with web hosts?
Are you worried about somebody else copying your work, taking credit for it, or making money off of it without your knowledge?
Will you continue adding and editing definitions in the future?
What related research will you be doing for your thesis?
Will you be posting your thesis research to the Internet as well?
Why did you name your dictionary "Dashing the Anemoi"?
Giedd Brytta is a weird name. Is that your real name?
What surprising things have you learned from working on this project?
What is your favorite word?
What is your favorite dictionary?
Who is your favorite lexicographer?
How does being female affect your lexicography?
Why is webby407 part of your url?
Do you know any amusing or instructive websites for logophiles and word nerds?
Should I contact you if I know a great word that you haven't included yet?
Should I contact you if I spot a typo or mistake in your work?
Should I contact you with offers to make this website searchable, or to add on other useful features?
Should I contact you if I just love your project and want to tell you how awesome you are?
What's one reason I definitely should not contact you?
How can I contact you?
PURPOSE AND GOALS
Why did you start your own dictionary? (Back to Heading)
This project was merely an SAT vocab study sheet in its infancy. I liked the words I was learning from my handy, dandy vocabulary book and, being the unabashed nerd that I am, decided I wanted to remember them long after I'd taken the test. So, I typed them up. This turned into the hobby of researching and recording any word that has interested me since high school.
What do you think is the value of making this lexicon available for others? (Back to Heading)
Initially, my reasoning was: Why not? I had found my hobby both interesting and helpful, and it certainly couldn't hurt to share with others. I may even get useful feedback from random web surfers. At the time, I was also eager to learn and practice a bit more html coding. This would provide an excuse to do so. (I still just know the basics, and look up I-want-to-do-that coding as I go. I learned how to link within a single document for this page!) The purpose for sharing, now, has expanded ... as explained in the answers below.
How do you imagine others using your dictionary? (Back to Heading)
First and foremost, my dictionary is designed to be browsed. Because it is organized by part of speech, its usage is potentially a hybrid of that for a dictionary and that for a thesaurus. For example, someone might browse the adjectives or adverbs for some descriptive term they need and can't quite put their finger on. It's possible, of course, to look up a specific word as well. My lexicon is primarily for people interested in clearly-worded definitions of odd, rare, difficult, and beautiful words. You might say the words are hoity toity but their meanings are down-to-earth.
Is your dictionary prescriptive (showing how words should be used) or descriptive (showing how words have been used)? (Back to Heading)
Even if I considered myself a linguistic authority (which I don't), I'd still prefer description over prescription. As controversial as this question has been for professional lexicographers, such conflicts almost never factor into my definitions. This is because the do's and don't's of word usage are much more common among common words. (Ever see the firestorm that brewed over the toned down criticism of "ain't" in Webster's Third International edition? Woe be to he facing an angered literati!) The bottom line? Dictionaries are historical documents.
Is this dictionary meant to advocate any political or social agenda? (Back to Heading)
Although I hold a great many strong political views, I do my best to keep them out of my definitions. Even if you read through all the political terms in my lexicon, you still shouldn't be able to tell what my leanings are.
I do, however, have a sort of social agenda: I view vocabulary growth, where you feel comfortable using a word not just in writing but in conversation, as a tool for brain growth, and everybody (including myself) could benefit from more of that. I also believe our culture needs to do better encouraging all forms of intelligence, but practical logic and worldly awareness in particular. This is why I don't include the common words that most people are already very familiar with and why I insist that difficult words should have absolutely clear, relatively easy definitions. Difficult words or ideas with straight-forward explanations are the ideal I'm working towards.
Are you making any money off of this project? (Back to Heading)
Nope. I've never made so much as a penny off this project. Thankfully, I've barely spent any money on it. The only time I have was printing out hard copies. (It's easier to mark on paper entries in need of editing.)
How can I properly cite a definition from your website? (Back to Heading)
Don't do this. You shouldn't refer to my web page as a resource in any paper you turn in for a class because, as a lowly grad student with a hobby, I am not an authority figure. Treat my page like Wikipedia: a helpful site but, since not authoritative, not one you should cite. ... Seriously. :-)
CONTENT OF THE LEXICON
Are these all real words? (Back to Heading)
With precious few exceptions, yes, these words and their meanings are all real. The extremely rare exceptions to this statement are words I deemed worthy of citation that were created by people I've met. I know that on my front page I assert that I have no interest in such terms, but on very rare occasions I've included them as a measure against plagiarism. Some dictionaries, ancient and modern, would make up a couple of words included in their lexicon so that they could check if later works were plagiarizing them: if they found the fake words, obviously some of their writing had been stolen. Having a very few terms like this, therefore, is useful. But chances are whatever word you're looking at, it's real. If you want to be sure, then double check it against a comprehensive, authoritative resource. (I suggest using One Look to determine word authenticity.)
How did you find all these words? (Back to Heading)
I found most of these through reading books and news articles. For a while I had daily online vocabulary subscriptions, but I haven't been consulting them in recent years because my list of to-add words is ridiculously long already. I may go back to them eventually, though. When I become interested in a topic, there's a good chance terms associated with that topic will soon show up in my lexicon. When I research terms for a class, they get added. This is how several fencing terms made their way into my lexicon. I also, several years ago, wanted to add a great number of terms from world religions. I got through general philosophy, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but got snagged on Hinduism. There are so many terms I want to add from it that I haven't finished yet. I need to go back and work on that. I also want to include terms from Buddhism and Taoism. Once I complete all those, it's very possible I'll add a special page focusing on religious and philosophical terms. In short, I'll take inspiration from anywhere, but mostly acquire vocab through reading.
How do you choose whether or not to include a word? (Back to Heading)
The perfect word for inclusion in my dictionary is useful, somewhat rare or difficult (but is clearly in use), and beautiful. All of these are, of course, subjective standards. (See next question.) The "rare or difficult" qualification is particularly tricky, because I don't generally include a word if it's, say, a slang term that has been used twice and is unlikely to catch on. Ultimately, I include a word because I like it or find it useful.
How do your personal biases affect your dictionary? (Back to Heading)
I make a purposeful effort to keep my personal beliefs out of my definitions, but when it comes to which terms get defined at all, there my personality is a huge factor. As noted above, most of these terms came through my personal interests, especially the books I read. I've used vocabulary e-mail subscriptions, suggestions from friends and strangers, and occasional research into topics I wouldn't otherwise look up to counter-balance my idiosyncrasies, but ultimately my biases will always be there. I am okay with this as long as I can maintain a high standard of objectivity when it comes to the definitions themselves.
Is there any area of vocabulary that is currently lacking or that you'd specifically like to bulk up on? (Back to Heading)
I want more terms from law, engineering, math, science, and medicine. I like these topics, but they're not on my usual reading list, so any suggestions you have for great terms in these fields would be appreciated.
STANDARDS IN DEFINITION QUALITY, FORMAT & STYLE
What are your standards regarding definition format and style? (Back to Heading)
I have decided on quite a few regular forms for my definitions. For example, synonyms are in italics and follow a colon. If I include the antonym of a word, it is formatted this way: [antonym: word]. For words that come directly from other languages, I include their language and literal translation. If there is only one definition of the word, this comes at the end of the definition; however, if the word has more than one meaning, the literal definition comes before the "1." This is because the literal meaning is related to all the definitions, not merely the last one, and should not be written as though it is associated with only the last one. No definition starts with a capital (unless due to a proper noun) or ends with a period. I'll quit here, before this gets too fascinating to handle. ;-D
What are your standards regarding definition quality? (Back to Heading)
I subscribe to Albert Einstein's philosophy of lexicography: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (Okay, he was referring to science, but he could just as easily have been referring to dictionary writing!) I want to understand things so well that I can explain them to anyone in a clear and concise, but not dumbed down or over-simplified, manner. The most important standard a dictionary can have is accuracy, but clarity comes in a very close second. It is my opinion if a reader still does not understand the meaning and use of a word after reading its definition, it is the dictionary's fault. Period. (More on this directly below.)
What standards do you have that are distinct from other dictionaries? (Back to Heading)
Certain personal standards did grow out of my annoyances with other dictionaries, the primary ones of which are these:
1) No part of the word itself should be used to define the word. (Mason = one who practices masonry = a terrible definition. If I knew masonry, I wouldn't need to look up mason, right?)
2) Difficult or strange words should be avoided in the definition itself, though they may be included as synonyms. (Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain something simply, then you don't understand it well enough." I agree with him. Besides, the whole point of a dictionary is to bring greater understanding, not greater confusion.)
3) No term can be defined by synonyms alone. A definition must be descriptive. (If synonyms cannot be made distinct from another, then there is no point in having both. Every word can, and should, be defined on its own merits.)
What does your process of defining a word entail? (Back to Heading)
I enter a given term into One Look. I copy definitions from their many indexed resources (both the general dictionaries and any specialized ones that pop up). I identify how many unique meanings of a given term I find among those definitions. I then mesh together what seem to be identical meanings from different resources and reword them according to my own goals (accuracy and clarity without plagiarism). Every one of the vocabulary terms on my website has gone through this process, some of them several times as I became dissatisfied with the quality of my earlier writing.
How do you avoid plagiarizing? (Back to Heading)
I make a constant and conscious effort to ensure that my definitions are a conglomeration of others' definitions, and identical to none of them. This is most difficult when meanings are simple, since reworking the wording is liable to make the phrasing difficult or strange, or needlessly long. Still, I pull on what creativity I have to do this because I do NOT want to step on any copy-written toes. Furthermore, I am currently doing my first full sweep of editing, part of which is making sure each definition is not only accurate and clear, but also uniquely my own. Even so, remember, these are all terms I had to look up in order for me to fully understand them. Therefore, I must rely heavily on other dictionaries. I am retouching the definitions every day, but I can already easily defend my project itself as unique, not only in its choice of terms but also in its organization (by part of speech). That is my contribution, as I've seen no other dictionary do this.
Why did you decide to organize your dictionary by part of speech? (Back to Heading)
As I wrote my list of terms, I realized ordering it by alphabet was economical, but I wanted something more helpful. I wanted to chunk my words in a way that fit my brain. I also figured it would help me solidify in my own mind the variable uses of each part of speech. That prediction came true even better than I had hoped. In the end, the cause was idiosyncrasy -- but useful and fun idiosyncrasy!
Why should I consider you an authority on word usage? (Back to Heading)
You shouldn't. Although I work very hard to be accurate in my definitions, I am not actually an authority on language. I'm a hobbyist. That's all.
What books (and other resources) have most strongly influenced your philosophy of lexicography? (Back to Heading)
The single biggest influence was S. I. Hayakawa's Language And Thought In Action. Everyone should read that book. It's fantastic!
I notice that some noun pages focus on one letter while others focus on groups of letters in the alphabet. Why is that? (Back to Heading)
It's fair to say that the letter or letters focused on for each noun page may seem random. The reason that they are grouped as they are is to make the content on each page as close to equal in amount as possible. Ideally, each page would have about the same amount of content for a viewer to explore or to search through. Also, it annoyed me that some pages had twice as much content as others -- something viewers may not actually realize was happening. Therefore, at the beginning of 2019, I re-sorted the noun pages to make the content covered on each page more even. There is no other meaning behind how the noun pages are grouped. I do find it interesting, though, to see exactly how much more material ends up under each letter. It's not surprising that J, Q, W, X, Y, and Z are the smallest by volume or that S has many entries -- but I was surprised to find that A and C are more popular than R or T, and that E words aren't particularly popular -- at least, among the types of words I include in this dictionary. Ah, the trivia I gain in this hobby!
THINGS NOT INCLUDED
Why don't you include common words? (Back to Heading)
Because the point of this web site is to record and share unfamiliar words. The goal is learning. People don't need to "learn" the common terms that everybody knows. There are plenty of other resources that cover that material better than I could, anyway.
Why don't you include etymology? (Back to Heading)
Laziness. I absolutely love word origins -- in my position as an English tutor I have written vocabulary handouts based on etymology -- but it would take way too much effort to add them in now. If you want to know the origin of a given term, I highly recommend locating the Oxford English Dictionary at your local library. As far as good, free online resources go, Etymonline is great. If you like browsing word origins for fun, Word Origins is very non-linguist-friendly. World Wide Words also includes word origins in their highly informative, highly entertaining entries.
Why don't you include pronunciation? (Back to Heading)
Laziness again. I suppose I could have used the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) if I had known about it when I started, but trying to include pronunciation would have been a great deal more work, and standard dictionaries already provide this information perfectly well.
Why don't you include example sentences? (Back to Heading)
You guessed it, laziness. It would take too much time and use up too much space. If you hunt around, you will find a few example sentences, though. :-)
Why don't you include my all-time favorite word that totally belongs in your lexicon? (Back to Heading)
Probably because I haven't come across it yet. Share it with me and it may very well get added. :^)
THE ONLINE EXPERIENCE
What resources do you use for research? (Back to Heading)
My absolute favorite website (which is also, by the way, totally free) is One Look. Not only is it the single most helpful dictionary resource on the Internet, it has totally fun and creative alternative search options on its front page. Because they index literally hundreds of general and topical dictionaries, I cannot overstate how important this site has been to my research. Check it out.
What resources do you use for html coding? (Back to Heading)
w3schools has extremely helpful free tutorials. I consult this site whenever I need to learn a new html tag. When editing html pages on my computer, I prefer HTML Kit over Frontpage. Initially, I used Frontpage to convert my word document into a web page -- talk about coding nastiness. The program added huge strings of meaningless, ugly coding that I had to delete for the sake of simplicity, aesthetics, and my own sanity. Some of them were regular repeats which could be deleted all at once, but many were unique, and so I had to delete them by hand. It took forever, but I'm glad I got through it, because now I have my lexicon coding nicely streamlined. Woohoo! HTML Kit color-codes the html tags as you type them, which is lovely and helpful. Also, it's free. I like free stuff (as long as it doesn't come with spyware crap, of course).
What has been your experience with web hosts? (Back to Heading)
First, I used Brinkster. I left when it started crashing all the time. (I would think they've fixed this problem by now, but really have no idea, as I haven't used it in years.) Next, I used 1colony. I liked this host, as it was much more stable, until they started putting pop up ads on my site. I despise pop up ads, and certainly didn't want visitors to my page bothered with them. Time to move again! I am currently using my third web host, Webs (formerly FreeWebs, hence my url). So far, I am happy with this host. It's free (although paid accounts are available), stable, doesn't use pop up ads, and even gives me more storage space than my previous two homes. I only have one complaint: they recently changed their method of looking at the html coding and a preview of the website at once. The system before worked perfectly fine. The new system adds html coding that isn't so much superfluous as it is plain wrong. Hence, for a short time my internal links on this page didn't work. I hope they fix the new system so that it leaves my coding alone when I use that option, or simply go back to the old way, which worked beautifully. I can't imagine why they changed it, and I hope the pure html view isn't "updated" in such a manner in the future. If it is, I will be sure to review the change here.
Are you worried about somebody else copying your work, taking credit for it, or making money off of it without your knowledge? (Back to Heading)
This project is a labor of love. It's personally important to me that this work be free and accessible to all (well, at least all with Internet access), but I am also very protective of this project as wholly my baby. Nobody else gets to claim it as their own. Those who attempt to take credit for it or profit off it do so at their own peril.
EVIL EYE ----------> < (O) >
Will you continue adding and editing definitions in the future? (Back to Heading)
Yes. This is a lifelong project. I will work on it until I die.
What related research will you be doing for your thesis? (Back to Heading)
I will, in part, write extended answers to the questions addressed here. I'll also be comparing my project with other dictionaries, both online and in print, and other dictionary writers. How do their standards, styles, and methods of research differ from mine? With so many authoritative resources out there, does a pet project like this contribute anything meaningful?
Will you be posting your thesis research to the Internet as well? (Back to Heading)
Yep, I sure will.
Why did you name your dictionary "Dashing the Anemoi"? (Back to Heading)
In the preface to his famed Dictionary, Samuel Johnson once said that "to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride." In other words, to think anyone could determine, once and for all time, what a word definitively means is impossible. Language evolves, and word meanings must evolve with it. I wanted to reference this statement of his, yet also make it my own. In the sense I'm using it, to dash is the same as to lash (and nicely rhymes), and the anemoi were the gods of the wind in ancient Greek mythology.
Brytta Sˇ■word is a weird name. Is that your real name? (Back to Heading)
If by weird you mean fateful or destined (which was the original meaning of "weird"), then you are correct! Brytta Sˇ■word is a pen name, chosen during my explorations into Old English terms. At the time, I was hoping to use long-lost verbiage to create a new title for what was then called "Word Novelties R Us," but nothing quite fit my aesthetics. The name literally means "giver of true words" (brytta = giver/dispenser; sˇ■word = a true word or true words), which effectively makes it a kenning -- the Old English manner of referring to people and things by compounding words associated with them (well, the order might be off, but Brytta sounds better as a first name than Sˇ■word). The resources I consulted are here and here. ... (Actually, I used Giedd Brytta, meaning "word giver", first; but I like the sound and meaning of my current name better, so that's what's here for now.) ... Yes, I am a nerd. Thanks for asking.
What surprising things have you learned from working on this project? (Back to Heading)
For one thing, the proportions of parts of speech to each other was a surprise. I expected (perhaps stupidly) that adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and nouns would turn up in roughly even numbers. In fact, as it became obvious that the nouns were outstripping all the others, I tried to bulk up on adjectives and verbs. It turns out there are at least ten times as many nouns as there are any other part of speech. (At least, this is true for beyond common vocabulary.) The more I think about it, the more this makes sense. How many things we do need unique verbs of their own? How many ways are there really to describe what we experience? Compare this with just how much stuff there is to name -- an ever-expanding list of things and ideas throughout the world. The noun count will always be massive in comparison to the rest. The smallest group by far (other than truly minor groups, like interjections) is adverbs, and most of them began as adjectives.
What is your favorite word? (Back to Heading)
Poshlust. It is an incredibly useful word for our times, its sound makes lovely harmony with its meaning, and it's fun. Other favorites include gossypiboma, sarcophagus (due to its etymology), and hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
What is your favorite dictionary? (Back to Heading)
Like nearly all word nerds, the resource which wins the most reverence from me is the Oxford English Dictionary. But ignoring the OED for the moment, my favorite commercial dictionaries are the ones with the clearest explanations; namely, V2 Vocabulary Building Dictionary and Encarta. V2 doesn't have near the number of terms defined as other resources do (it pretty frequently doesn't have the word I'm looking for), and appears to focus on adjectives and verbs rather than nouns, but the definitions it does have are truly excellent. Readers get not only succinct yet accurate definitions, but also lists of synonyms and antonyms and example sentences demonstrating any variable meanings of a term. As for Encarta, I'm a little startled at myself for liking a Microsoft product so much, but Encarta's definitions are clean and efficient without being simplistic, and I really like that most of their definitions have a descriptive heading. When I'm looking up meanings via OneLook, the above two dictionaries are the ones I look for first.
Who is your favorite lexicographer? (Back to Heading)
When I began this project, I expected my favorite would remain Noah Webster. When reading about his later life, however, I discovered that he became a bit too curmudgeonly and his lexicography a bit too moralistic for my taste. More to my palate in both personality and in word defining habits was Samuel Johnson. He was a creative and clever man who had genuine skill at writing. Other favorites include Peter Mark Roget (the obsessive categorizer of Thesaurus fame) and Dr. W. C. Minor (the madman/murderer/wealthy scholar responsible for tens of thousands of citations used in the original Oxford English Dictionary). Not only were their contributions to word scholarship profound, they also led dramatically fascinating lives. If you have any interest at all in words or lexicography, I recommend both The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of 'Roget's Thesaurus' and The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. ... Although, as an aspiring amateur lexicographer, I would caution against assuming that word resource creations require disturbed minds or behavior. Such drama makes for a great story, but is atypical ... I assure you. :-)
How does being female affect your lexicography? (Back to Heading)
It doesn't. It does make me smile, however, that my existence is one small step towards correcting the gender imbalance in online lexicography, particularly when it comes to resources for difficult or interesting words. We need more word hobbyist women!
Why is webby407 part of your url? (Back to Heading)
In junior high, I once knew the meaning of a vocabulary term we'd learned at the beginning of the semester, so I raised my hand when the teacher asked us about it. A few of my classmates then decided I was "like a dictionary" and nicknamed me Webby (after Noah Webster). As I become ever more "like a dictionary," even putting said work on the web, I figured it an appropriate name to give new life. 407 refers to the house where I grew up.
Do you know any amusing or instructive websites for logophiles and word nerds? (Back to Heading)
Let's see, there's Free Rice (a vocabulary game that gives 10 gains of rice to impoverished nations for every word you get right, now THAT is a win-win idea!), Etymologic (a word origins trivia game), Save the Words (an amusing site encouraging obscure word revival), and The Language Construction Kit (self-explanatory). OneWord can be fun. And you could waste many fun (and educational!) hours visiting the links on this Writing Tools page. There are tons more. Additional links will come later. :-)
Should I contact you if I know a great word that you haven't included yet? (Back to Heading)
Yes! I love getting word suggestions. As long as it a real word, chances are I'll add it ... but no promises. This is my baby and word inclusions are at my sole discretion.
Should I contact you if I spot a typo or mistake in your work? (Back to Heading)
YES! Please do! I'd rather know about mistakes so that I can fix them rather than leave them on my page.
Should I contact you with offers to make this website searchable, or to add on other useful features? (Back to Heading)
Thank you very much, but chances are I won't take you up on the offer. I'm very protective of my site and don't feel comfortable giving anyone else access to edit or modify it in any way. Making the site searchable would be nice, but is not a priority.
Should I contact you if I just love your project and want to tell you how awesome you are? (Back to Heading)
Of course! I never thought you'd ask. ;^D
What's one reason I definitely should not contact you? (Back to Heading)
If you are a spammer, creep, troll, stalker, or similar undesirable, I don't want to hear from you.
How can I contact you? (Back to Heading)
My e-mail address for feedback is [email protected].