The Evolution of the dictionary By J. H. Bográn

According to Wikipedia, a dictionary is a collection of words in one of more languages, often alphabetized. But of course you knew that. In the age before computers and internet, people had to resource to a book to learn the meaning of a new word, or how to spell it correctly. That book, of course, is known as a dictionary.


I always thought dictionaries were relatively new, but to my surprise they date back to over 2300 years before Christ! They are common on almost every language. So basically, if there is a language then there is a list of its words somewhere.


With the advent of computers, and word processing software that incorporated dictionaries, the use of those sacred old books became less frequent. By the time the 21st Century arrived, people were used to just “google” for a word.


I teach English as a foreign language in a local college, and as such, I’m always in the look for new ways to help my students. Of course they hate me at the beginning of the course because I insist they put some money to invest in a proper dictionary, an English one and not the English-Spanish type that helps at the beginning but does more damage than good in the long run. In the process of learning the new language they must begin to think in that language, thus the handicap of the translation dictionary in advanced courses.


Last period I discovered something amazing: a Merriam-Webster app that you can download on your phone or tablet. We’ve all heard the phrase: “There’s an app for that,” but I was surprised to find an app for a dictionary! I don’t know how long the thing has been up, but my students love it.


Have you seen the meme of the bookworm problem about not knowing how to pronounce a word because you’ve only seen it written? That has happened to me very often. It turns out the app does not only give the definitions but it also helps with the pronunciation. It’s a marvelous app, and one it is now part of my required tools for the class. By the way, now is a good time to say the app is free and that I’m not getting a commission if you get it. : – )


Encyclopedias suffered a similar fate. Long gone are the days where traveling salesmen would offer Britannica or other popular encyclopedia door to door. The new generation never had the pleasure of having to browse the topics in alphabetical order. Then again, encyclopedias were some of the first to embrace new technology. Some may remember the Microsoft Encarta, but even that is now discontinued.


In fact, I think is something close to a miracle that we could still find bibles in hotel rooms, but I gather we should thank the Gideons for that treat.


In the end, the language and out method we consume news has changed. We have information literally at the touch of our finger. If you’re reading a book on your electronic device, all you have to do is touch the unfamiliar word and a definition will show up. That means you don’t have to put the book down and go look for a printed dictionary. In other words, the evolution of the dictionary has enabled us to read faster.




jh_4bywAbout the author:

  1. H. Bográn was born and raised in Honduras. Although he’s the son of a journalist, he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. He majored in Business Administration and has worked in the textile industry for past twenty years. José’s genre of choice is Suspense, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix.

TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll.FIREFALLCOVER

FIREFALL, his second novel, was released in 2013 by Rebel ePublishers. Coffee Time Romance calls it “a taut, compelling mystery with a complex, well-drawn main character.”

He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

He lives in Honduras with his wife and three sons, and a Lucky dog.

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of the dictionary By J. H. Bográn

  1. radine says:

    Very, very interesting. Me? Yes, I use Google, but for words by themselves, I most often grab a dictionary in printed book form (today I have to explain this). I have at least one dictionary by every reading chair, several varieties in my office, and even small ones in door pockets in our two cars..

  2. I enjoyed the reading, I just can’t believe you didn’t know about meriam webster app :), there’s literally an app for everything haha. I still have dictionaries and encyclopedias at home, I don’t use them though, they look lovely in my book shelf 😉

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