The case of the disappearing, reappearing dictionary

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…

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.