Noah Webster, the Father of the American Dictionary, was born on this date in 1758. He began writing his dictionary when he was in his early forties; it took him 27 years to complete the labor of love! Dictionary Day is observed annually on the anniversary of his birth, and emphasizes “the importance of dictionary skills and vocabulary.”
The oldest dictionaries, discovered in what is now Syria, date back to roughly 2300 BC. Surprisingly, the first “truly noteworthy, reliable English Dictionary” was not available until the publication of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Seventy decades later, Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1825. Although the name ‘Webster’s’ has become synonymous with the word “dictionary”, his publications did not become successful until afer his death. Today, the Oxford English Dictionary is the most comprehensive and trusted English Language dictionary, updated by a team of approximately 70 editors every three months.
I was blessed to grow up in what I like to consider a “wordy” household. My mom is a writer and we were always encouraged to use a broad vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grateful for this upbringing: it allowed me to develop the tools needed in order to truly express my feelings in the most accurate, concise manner possible. Needless to say, the dictionary and thesaurus were good friends of mine, particularly when I was working on school assignments. But with the advancement of computer programs and the availability of information on the internet, now my old friends are spending their days gathering dust. They, along with the encyclopedia, are some of the many casualties technology has dealt to the print world.
To celebrate National Dictionary Day I decided to work on my vocabulary. And, of course, there’s an app for that (more like several hundred, actually!). I downloaded the Dictionary.com app for the iphone — an app I’m sure I’ll use on a regular basis since I often find myself visiting dictionary.com via a web browser. After the app was installed I was able to view the word of the day: flaxen (of the pale yellowish color of dressed flax or linen). I also installed an app called Weird Word of the Day. Today’s weird word is millenarianism: belief that an ideal society will be produced in the near future.