Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Combine a love of words with a love of social networking and what do you get? My favorite new obsession on the Internet: Wordnik!

Created by Erin McKean (editor in chief of the Oxford American Dictionary!), Wordnik is a dictionary that evolves as language does. Users can add new words and meanings, tag words with related expressions, see real-time search word results from both Twitter and Flickr AND discover how many Scrabble points a particular word is worth!! I haven't been able to stop going back to it each time I think of a new word to enter!

I started with searching the word "network" since I have been spending a great deal of time thinking and writing about social networks and technology. In addition to definitions, I got amazing (and somewhat wordy) examples from literature, I learned that at this moment the word had been looked up 16 other times so far, I saw it's use being updated in real time from Twitter, saw images with this tag in Flickr and what I loved most of all was this:

A chart of how often the word was used in a year!!! (Love the implications of the use of network gathered around the 21st century!!)

There is a great interview with Erin over on the TED Blog as it seems the idea for Wordnik came from her TED talk and came to life after that! When asked about linking to Twitter and Flickr as it didn't seem "immediately intuitive" she responded:

It’s funny because it’s completely intuitive to dictionary editors. How can we show how a word is really used? The other day I tried to find out if “pants” was being used as a suffix and I found a tweet for “awesomepants.” Twitter is like overhearing people’s conversations, which is exactly what dictionary editors have been wishing we could do for years.

Flickr -- well, if you’ve looked at dictionary illustrations you know that they tend to be uninteresting, and so small. With Flickr, you get a lot of abstractions too. What dictionary would have pictures of “honor”? When you look “honor” up on Wordnik, you get pictures of women named Honor, which tells you that it’s also used as a proper noun. You also get images of flags and different symbols of the military. Now you can see what feelings words evoke.

Go play - and tell us what you found interesting about the word you put in!!

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