Dictionaries do not win complex debates, you assholes.

“Well defined Words being necessary to a proper Debate, the Dictionaries of the people shall not be abridged.”

On the other hand, if someone tells you that you’re using a word incorrectly, and you pull out a dictionary definition, and they tell you that what the dictionary says doesn’t matter, what they say the word means is what the word means, by God, and if you can’t accept that you’re an idiot, liar, and bigot, then I think you’re justified in getting annoyed.

From Podkayne’s Rules of Essay Grading: “Starting an essay with a dictionary definiton of your topic: -5 pts.” That’s soooo Jr. High. We’re in college, now, boys and girls.

And on small vocabularies:

When we read Pride and Prejudice in our junior year of high school, one of the assignments was that every time you found a word you didn’t know, you were supposed to write it down, look it up in the dictionary, and jot down a brief definition. When time came to turn it in, I noticed, glancing at the other papers, that I had at least five times as many words as everyone else, which shocked me. I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, but maybe I wasn’t as bright as I thought!

When the teacher returned the assignment, she said that she was very disappointed in the work of most students. “The person who wrote down the most words,” she said, “Was the person in the class who, based on her writing, has the best vocabulary. I think a lot of you are skipping over words you don’t understand, and you need to read more carefully.” Not being a sadist, she didn’t mention me by name, but people sitting around me noticed how thick my paper was when it was returned. The girl next to me leaned over and looked at my paper, and pointed to one of the words.

“Well, duh,” she said, “that’s an easy one. How could you not know what it means?”

I said, “When I read it in the sentence, I didn’t understand what it meant in that context, so I looked it up.”

She said, “You just put down lots of words to get a good grade.”

I quickly covered my paper and said, “If it’s so easy, then what does it mean?” I planned to look up the sentence in the book to show her that the word was not being used in the most common sense.

She gave a definition that wasn’t correct in any context.

I said, “Uh huh.”

Are you still on about this, you plebian? Context, context, context… :rolleyes:

And people do win arguments with dictionaries - if it’s a nice, big fat one and delivered as a stunning blow to the back of the head. :smiley:


Subtle, sleek, and certainly the newest meaning of intellectual I’ve come across so far…

I’d go back and find a few of the many examples of december’s use of dictionary cites in GD, he being one of the worst offenders despite his protestations above, but he frankly isn’t worth the trouble.

Fenris, you’re absolutely right. Mere wordplay is not a substitute for thought, any more than is paraphrasing consistently-partisan sources from only one side in an attempt to convince onself that one is debating.

Pronunciation: 'dik-sh&-"ner-E
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nar·ies
Etymology: Medieval Latin dictionarium, from Late Latin diction-, dictio word, from Latin, speaking
Date: 1526
1 : a reference book containing words usually alphabetically arranged along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meanings, and syntactical and idiomatic uses
2 : a reference book listing alphabetically terms or names important to a particular subject or activity along with discussion of their meanings and applications
3 : a reference book giving for words of one language equivalents in another
4 : a list (as of items of data or words) stored in a computer for reference (as for information retrieval or word processing)

Pronunciation: 'dü, d&(-w)
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): did /'did, d&d/; done /'d&n/; do·ing /'dü-i[ng]/; does /'d&z/
Etymology: Middle English don, from Old English dOn; akin to Old High German tuon to do, Latin -dere to put, facere to make, do, Greek tithenai to place, set
Date: before 12th century
transitive senses
1 : to bring to pass : CARRY OUT
2 : PUT – used chiefly in do to death
3 a : PERFORM, EXECUTE <do some work> <did his duty> b : COMMIT <crimes done deliberately>
4 a : BRING ABOUT, EFFECT <trying to do good> <do violence> b : to give freely : PAY <do honor to her memory>
5 : to bring to an end : FINISH – used in the past participle <the job is finally done>
6 : to put forth : EXERT <did her best to win the race>
7 a : to wear out especially by physical exertion : EXHAUST <at the end of the race they were pretty well done> b British : to attack physically : BEAT; also : KILL
8 : to bring into existence : PRODUCE <do a biography on the general>
9 – used as a substitute verb especially to avoid repetition <if you must make such a racket, do it somewhere else>
10 a : to play the role or character of b : MIMIC; also : to behave like <do a Houdini and disappear> c : to perform in or serve as producer of <do a play>
11 : to treat unfairly; especially : CHEAT <did him out of his inheritance>
12 : to treat or deal with in any way typically with the sense of preparation or with that of care or attention: a (1) : to put in order : CLEAN <was doing the kitchen> (2) : WASH <did the dishes after supper> b : to prepare for use or consumption; especially : COOK <like my steak done rare> c : SET, ARRANGE <had her hair done> d : to apply cosmetics to <wanted to do her face before the party> e : DECORATE, FURNISH <did the living room in Early American>
13 : to be engaged in the study or practice of <do science>; especially : to work at as a vocation <what to do after college>
14 a : to pass over (as distance) : TRAVERSE b : to travel at a speed of <doing 55 on the turnpike>
15 : TOUR <doing 12 countries in 30 days>
16 : to spend or serve out (a period of time) <did ten years in prison>
17 : to serve the needs of : SUIT, SUFFICE <worms will do us for bait>
18 : to approve especially by custom, opinion, or propriety <you oughtn’t to say a thing like that … it’s not done – Dorothy Sayers>
19 : to treat with respect to physical comforts <did themselves well>
20 : USE 3 <doesn’t do drugs>
intransitive senses

Pronunciation: 'nät
Function: adverb
Etymology: Middle English, alteration of nought, from nought, pron. – more at NAUGHT
Date: 13th century
1 – used as a function word to make negative a group of words or a word
2 – used as a function word to stand for the negative of a preceding group of words <is sometimes hard to see and sometimes not>

Pronunciation: 'win
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): won /'w&n/; win·ning
Etymology: Middle English winnen, from Old English winnan to struggle; akin to Old High German winnan to struggle and probably to Latin venus sexual desire, charm, Sanskrit vanas desire, vanoti he strives for
Date: before 12th century
transitive senses
1 a : to get possession of by effort or fortune b : to obtain by work : EARN <striving to win a living from the sterile soil>
2 a : to gain in or as if in battle or contest b : to be the victor in <won the war>
3 a : to make friendly or favorable to oneself or to one’s cause – often used with over <won him over with persuasive arguments> b : to induce to accept oneself in marriage
4 a : to obtain (as ore, coal, or clay) by mining b : to prepare (as a vein or bed) for regular mining c : to recover (as metal) from ore
5 : to reach by expenditure of effort
intransitive senses

**com·plex **
Pronunciation: käm-‘pleks, k&m-’, 'käm-"
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin complexus, past participle of complecti to embrace, comprise (a multitude of objects), from com- + plectere to braid – more at PLY
Date: circa 1652
1 a : composed of two or more parts : COMPOSITE b (1) of a word : having a bound form as one or more of its immediate constituents <unmanly is a complex word> (2) of a sentence : consisting of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses
2 : hard to separate, analyze, or solve
3 : of, concerned with, being, or containing complex numbers <a complex root> <complex analysis>

  • com·plex·ly adverb
  • com·plex·ness noun
    synonyms COMPLEX, COMPLICATED, INTRICATE, INVOLVED, KNOTTY mean having confusingly interrelated parts. COMPLEX suggests the unavoidable result of a necessary combining and does not imply a fault or failure <a complex recipe>. COMPLICATED applies to what offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining <complicated legal procedures>. INTRICATE suggests such interlacing of parts as to make it nearly impossible to follow or grasp them separately <an intricate web of deceit>. INVOLVED implies extreme complication and often disorder <a rambling, involved explanation>. KNOTTY suggests complication and entanglement that make solution or understanding improbable <knotty ethical questions>.

Pronunciation: di-'bAt, dE-
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
: a contention by words or arguments: as a : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

Pronunciation: 'yü, y& also yE
Function: pronoun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English Eow, dat. & accus. of gE you; akin to Old High German iu, dative of ir you, Sanskrit yuyam you
Date: before 12th century
1 : the one or ones being addressed – used as the pronoun of the second person singular or plural in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive <you may sit in that chair> <you are my friends> <can I pour you a cup of tea> – used formerly only as a plural pronoun of the second person in the dative or accusative case as direct or indirect object of a verb or as object of a preposition; compare THEE, THOU, YE, YOUR, YOURS

Pronunciation: 'as-"(h)Ol
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1 usually vulgar : ANUS
2 a usually vulgar : a stupid, incompetent, or detestable person b usually vulgar : a despicable place – usually used in the phrase asshole of the universe

exasperated sigh

The word, Poddy. What was the word?


But can any of you folks with dictionaries tell me what the meaning of “is” is?

Sorry. It was horrible, but I felt the burning need.

[ducks/runs] :stuck_out_tongue:

I understand they have a cream for that.


It’s called astroglide. The next best thing to not being alone with a burning need

Words have power. Words are magical. To use the right word in the right context is to wield control in a situation that is DRIVEN by words alone. I cannot impress you by my physical self; I do not have that at my command in an internet melee. But what I do have is my skill with words. The right words, at the right times. And yes, it matters very much that they are correctly spelled, correctly placed. There is power in understanding and placing words in the English language.

I’m a Pit Bitch. I am very persnickety about words. Not only the spelling of the words, but how those words are used, how they are flung, their meaning. It matters to me. I disdain “Urban Speak” and the casualty of the English language. All dictionaries can do is perhaps, at best, define a word. No dictionary is absolute. Words change, evolve, over time. Look up hussy.

But I don’t think we are really getting into that here. To me, if that’s all you have, a minor misspelling over a word, not the meaning, it’s a silly argument. But if the word itself is in error, then I’m more willing to look to meaning.

Again, words have power. Correct spelling is one thing, but the power behind the word is another. Have power behind your words and I’ll forgive the misspelling.

Sorry, Ogre, I don’t remember what it was. :frowning: Looking at my awfully long, barely on-topic post, I realize that I shouldn’t have indulged myself with such a boring little anecdote, but I had experienced a moment of reverie. I could remember the classroom in minute detail: the tone of the teacher’s voice, the crackling of the library binding on our copies of the book, my dot-matix computer printout of the assignment–even the smell of hairspray from my neighbor’s hair . . . but, alas, the word escapes me.

I still use index cards as bookmarks and jot down words I don’t know, though.

Pronunciation: 'hi-p&-"krit
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English ypocrite, from Old French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokritEs actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai
Date: 13th century
: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

So how did you explain it?

“Check the box for the committee you like”?

“Check the box for the committee you think’s doin’ real good”?

“Check the box with the purtiest words next to it”?

::d&r:: (it seems to be the way to roll around here)

Man, there sure is a whole lot of ducking and running going on in this thread.

I’m wondering, do you all normally duck once, presumably thinking that your potential assailant only has one item handy to throw at your head, and then straighten up again and the commence with the running, or do you actually scamper away while still in the “duck” position?

Because it seems to me that trying to run while ducking at the same time would result in your doing neither very well, and that anyone who wished to cause you bodily harm in retaliation for your oh-so-witty remarks should be able to catch up you fairly easily and pummel you at will.

However, if that person was sufficiently upset with you, despite the fact that you clearly “smilied” the shit out of your post, and if they didn’t feel like running after you, they would be able to find more than just the one thing to throw at you, and if you’re sort of scooting along hunched over, they would still be able to hit you, wouldn’t they?

And who decided that the head was the only legitimate target when it comes to thrown objects? Seems like the right sort of projectile could inflict pain if it struck your torso or kneecap as well.

Just wondering.

Ah, s’okay. It wasn’t a boring anecdote. I’m just anal about words. :slight_smile:

[offtopic] My dumbass EX boyfriend and I were having what passed for a conversation one day. He said something, I snorted and said “That’s apt” and he said “There you go again! Why do you have to use so many big words?” “I said “You mean ‘apt’?” It’s one syllable. You can’t get much smaller.” and he said “You know what I mean. Why don’t you use words that people know”. Ugh.

This is the same guy that retorted “I can so get it up!” when I questioned his fidelity. Double ugh.

Please resume your enlightening conversation. [/offtopic]

Last time I checked, “useage” was spelt usage.


Unless you mean an honest-to-god donnybrook has broken out on the SDMB, I believe the word you’re grasping for is “milieu.” Words are power, indeed!:wally