I was a voracious reader from a rather early age. I recall having had my reading level, in first or second grade, assessed at that of an eighth-grader.
My reading prowess could be attributed to a few things, like my parents reading to me from a young age, and often encouraging me to read to them. More importantly, if I came across a word I didn’t know and asked them what it meant, they almost always made me go look it up in the dictionary. I had a children’s dictionary that I adored, but for words that didn’t appear in there, I’d use their musty collegiate dictionary. This fostered an environment where literally no word was beyond my comprehension, an empowering feeling for a pre-geek with a single-digit age!
As I grew up, I didn’t always manage to keep reading with such volume and tenacity, and today, while I read tons of bits and blogs from the Web, long-form content isn’t something I take in a lot of. When I do, it tends to be an e‑book. (I read these, in epub format, on my Android phone using the excellent open-source FBReader. Yes, reading off of a small backlit screen sucks, but this is mitigated by a nice serif font and the knowledge that, as I’m often reading in the dark, I wouldn’t really be able to read any other way.)
As I read, still I come across the occasional word I don’t know. These days, my main dictionary (either Free Dictionary Org or Lexicon Lite) also lives inside of my phone. FBReader doesn’t have its own built-in, and to switch to another app is kind of a pain, so I’ve lately been finding myself shrugging off unknown terms. I have become the sort of person who stopped learning new words.
This bothered me, so I decided that, damn the inconvenience, I would start looking up words again. Once I tried, I learned that it actually wasn’t so hard, after all.
The secret (if you could call it that) was to long-hold my phone’s Home button. This is the equivalent to the Alt+Tab key combination in Linux and Windows, which allows you to flip through open apps (only, in Android, it’s a list of the six most recently used apps, open or otherwise). As long as the dictionary is among the last six, it’ll appear in that list… as does FBReader, when it’s time to switch back. This is much more enjoyable than going back to the home screen, flipping open the apps drawer, etc.
I guess that’s a passable not-so-new-anymore year’s resolution: to leave no word un-lexicized.
3 thoughts on “The case of the disappearing, reappearing dictionary”
This was me up until I got my G1. With the offline dictionary app I found, I put a shortcut to it on my home screen. Little by little I’m trying to get into the habit of looking up words I don’t know.
By the way, that children’s dictionary sounds really familiar, what was it again? And that musty dictionary was yucky. I hated having to resort to looking words up in it!
All I remember about the children’s dictionary was that it was a thick softcover book and I think the cover was in black and white.
And as for the musty college one, are you sure we’re talking about the same one? There’s the brown-covered one that’s actually okay… I think that’s in my room at home, but there was also a black-covered one that was kind of smelly and the cover was kind of falling off. I don’t think I’ve seen that one in years!
I’m talking about the brown one I use to have to hunt all over your room to use. The pages were so thin and I would I get that newspaper-yuck feeling all over my fingers when I would use it. I don’t recall a black one though.