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January 9, 1998

Words Worth

True story: A teacher, after assigning a student to count dictionaries in her family's home, disbelieved her answer of 47 -- not knowing that the student's father, a linguistics professor, collected dictionaries the way Bill Gates gathers billions. Now, though, you can easily surpass that total without buying a new set of bookcases, thanks to "A Web of On-line Dictionaries", which lists more than 400 online dictionaries in over 130 different languages. The page, maintained by Robert Beard at Bucknell University, opens with a quick English lookup in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. That's followed by an 8 x 18, Afrikaans-to-Xhosa grid of language links, including Esperanto, Gundungurra (an Australian language) and Star Trek's Klingon. But the site's real fun is found in its list of related sites, such as "Thesauri and Other Vocabulary Aids," "Language Identifiers and Guessers," "Web of Grammar," "Linguistic Sites" and "Linguistic Fun." If you ever drift from your goal while looking up words, those last two groupings may keep you unproductive for hours. The former links to comprehensive resources; the latter tells (among other things) why "ghoti" is pronounced "fish." --Gabriel Goldberg

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