Dictionaries : Some Problems
According to one estimate "every minute of every day including Sunday, six people buy an Oxford dictionary'''. This only shows the usefulness of dictionary as a reference source. Yet to get full amount of help from a dictionary one must try to
acquaint oneself with the peculiarities of different dictionaries.
Spelling: One major difficulty in the way of use of a dictionary is looking up words with incorrect spelling. Slight variations in remembered and actual spelling will result into disappointment.
Meaning: A word may carry more than one meaning, some archaic, others common. There are dictionaries which place common meaning first, whereas some dictionaries arrange various meanings in chronological order. A word may have two opposite meaning (chiffed: pleased, displeased) and a small dictionary may restrict itself to only one meaning. Where a word has both a popular meaning and, as a term, technical meaning, care should be taken in looking in the context of use before opening a dictionary.
New Words: Languages like human society are undergoing continuous change. New words are coined each day. No standard dictionary can keep pace with such fast movement. English language is better served on this count with Barnhart Dictionary Companion, a quarterly publication updating general dictionaries.
Usage : Words undergo change in meaning. Usage is one of the most delicate features of language. Geographical areas, Cultural groups, closed societies (of anti social elements) class of people, all affect the meaning of a word. Thus to study the context of use and looking up a proper dictionary of slang, euphemism, colloquial use will alone solve problem.
Innovative compilations have been attempted to meet unconventional approach of dictionary users: Ologies and isms, (Detroit, Gale, 1986) is a dictionary of 15000 words that end in ology, ism, ics, graphy, metry, archy, cider philia, phobia, mancy, et al. It helps users who have an idea theory and want to look up its meaning. Benrtein's Reverse Dictionary or Roget'.s Thesaurus type compilations are also helpful in such situations.