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Dictionary Hacks

Modern Dictionary Hacks

There are several options for modern dictionaries that exist perpetually on your sidebar so that all you have to do is download a plug-in for your browser and you have an immediate dictionary at your mouse’s fingertips:

(1) Safari Browser- Live Dictionary which becomes a transparent part of Safari and offers a wide array of dictionaries for technical terms, general language, and bilingual usage.
(2) Firefox Browser- Dictionary Search will show the definition to a word you highlight on any website- how cool is that??
(3) Firefox Browser- Dict similarly looks up definitions by highlighting and right clicking on a word.
(4) Internet Explorer- actually offers a sidebar toolbar for IE where you type in the word you need defined. Simple!

My First Real Dictionary

I got my first dictionary when I was three years old and could barely lift it myself. I still have it (although it is now dilapidated) and it smells a little musty and I love touching the soft pages that don’t crinkle and feel as if they’re coated in a light powder. My grandmother taught dyslexic children to hone their reading skills and I learned phonics at an early age. We lived in the country and the selection of books that are interesting to a child was limited to the Nancy Drew series (which I read by age five). I accomplished this without my grandmother knowing, rather with my father’s encouragement.

Most children ask “what does ‘anarchy’ mean? What does ‘exhume’ mean, daddy?” My father’s answer was consistently “go look it up.” We thought he was being mean, especially when we were told that before we could read, but later in life I realize that he persisted so that I would learn to rely on my own tools as well as be able to commit words to memory having sought them out myself.

Why I Use a Dictionary Every Day

I still use the dictionary every day and not for sentimental reasons. I know what you’re saying, “Lani, you already know every word in the English language.” Or perhaps you’re saying “Lani, I don’t really understand what the hell this has to do with my business!” Listen, as bloggers (or hell, even just a professional), we interact with written and spoken word daily and regardless of our vocabularies being active or passive, we must never ignore words we can’t define (meaning if we hear or read a word we don’t know, we should look it up and learn it).

My default dictionary has been for some time now (although I still cherish the ratty Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary with the unraveling cover and the word “liar” underlined because of the time I got in trouble for fibbing to dad and my punishment was writing the definition of the word 100 times) but it’s time I got hip to an inter-browser dictionary!

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And here’s a bonus Dadism for you, “do you know where you can find sympathy?” He would ask when we pointed out a boo boo that already stopped bleeding. “In the dictionary between sh!t and syphilis” (to which a six year old asks, “what’s syphilis?” to be told (say it with me now) “go look it up.”). Classic. Thanks dad for always making me look up words, even if they were sexually transmitted diseases- I’m a stronger thinker because of you!

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Chris Shouse

    August 29, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I love this post Lani:) My dad took the dictionary and learned one word a day for all of my lifetime. He then proceeded through out the day to use it in sentences and say it to as many people as he could. It was quite interesting and I learned a lot of words that I otherwise would never run across. I heard one the other night that I have not looked up yet but it sounds like I could use it sometime. The word is obfuscation.

  2. Vance Shutes

    August 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm


    LIke you, I use a lot. It’s just one of the (millions of) ways that the internet has so improved our lives and our businesses. We just open our browser on our PDA, go to, and Presto! the answer to our question about spelling or meaning of a word. That is SO much better than toting around a tiny dictionary with so few words as to be useless, or lugging around a huge dictionary with every conceivable word (though it might improve our upper-body muscle tone a bit!).

    Are you sure we didn’t have the same old, musty Webster’s dictionary as kids?

  3. y'dad

    August 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    One of the reasons I put an emphasis on the dictionary when you were little, was because I was raked over the coals in a freshman English class for not adequately defining “adamant”. The prof told us, “I’m a full professor and I only go to the dictionary a dozen times a day. And YOU ain’t no prof”, looking right at me. Hell, I thought he said “Adam Ant”… He died that same semester.

  4. Lisa Sanderson

    August 29, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Why did it not ever occur to me to get a browser plug-in? See, this is why we hang out here…cool tips, tricks and ideas sprinkled with sexual, potty & pop culture references. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.

    ps: I am so sending this article to my daughters cuz they hate it when I say ‘look it up’. Here is proof that I am not totally whacked. Ok, maybe it’s not proof of that but they are getting this anyway!

  5. Sheila H. Bragg

    August 31, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I love it! My Mom used to tell me all the time, “GO look it up!” She was a World Book sales rep, so we had the latest World Book Encyclopedia set available back in the 70’s.

    Now, I tell my teens to go look it up on the internet and I get, “Mom, the internet doesn’t know everything!” in response. 🙂 Times change, don’t they?

  6. Vicki Moore

    September 1, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I share the love of words/definitions with you and really get excited when I hear a word I don’t know and have to look it up. I’m the one always saying, “Wait! I’ll look it up!”

    Thanks for the fun post.

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