A part of MoR's Home Library

Here is a list of the tools I use when I write in English. They are not the best tools but only the ones I like, so any suggestion from readers is welcome. I have also added a few reference tools and encyclopaedias, due to the nature of this blog.

Whatever help one can find in a dictionary, a thesaurus or any other resource, it is our mind & taste that have to make the appropriate choice, so here again a good reading experience of valuable texts is the key to decent writing.

Bilingual tools are also included. Why? Aren’t monolingual tools better?  Yes, they surely are since they force us to think in the new language, but here in my blog the protagonist is not a language, but ideas, history, philosophy etc. even though expressed in simple ways. Sometimes I need to brainstorm in Italian when topics become complex, thence the need of a few translation tools.

Bilingual tools

  • Wordreference.com. A good web resource I use daily with bilingual dictionaries of Italian, English, French, German, Greek, Romanian, Russian etc. Much quicker than any paper dictionary (which is unfortunate, because I love to leaf through dictionary pages).
  • The Lexilogos translation web portal, a French (French Canadian?) resource with automatic translators for almost every language on earth (Chinese, Arabic and Indian languages included). I dislike computer translations for their total weirdness and I seldom use them, but they can suggest unexpected solutions. Again, the right choice depends on us. The site comprises the Reverso.net, Google and Yahoo Babel fish translators. I’m told that Power Translator is also a good software for automatic translations.

Monolingual tools

  • The Merriam-Webster pocket dictionaries. Many years ago I stumbled upon an excellent Merriam-Webster paperback edition (based on the Collegiate edition, if I’m not wrong). Since then I am a Merriam-Webster aficionado and do not regret it. That magic compact book, now lost, helped me effectively with any text, from comics to English and American literature.
    I now use the Home and Office Collegiate-based paperback edition of 1995 (the second from the bottom left in the picture above).
    Merriam-Webster is to me THE monolingual dictionary, with word definitions written with admirable concinnitas.
  • The huge Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Dorset & Baber 1972. I bought it in Boston in 1993 for a bargain price. A sort of monster, or bambinone (big boy.) The link is to the latest edition.
  • The dictionaries page of Lexilogos, a web portal again from France, with tons of links to almost every on-line great dictionary, such as Oxford Oald, Cambridge, Oxford Compact, Collins, Etymonline, American Heritage, etc.
  • The on-line Cambridge dictionary. Another daily resource which helps me to contain mistakes with prepositions, such as to, for, of, in, by, on etc.
    English and the Latin languages use prepositions in a very different way. For example, which of the two is correct: Participate *to* a discussion or *in* a discussion? Italian and French prefer the former, English the latter. When my language experience is not enough, I need these (time-consuming) checks.
  • The Gnome Dictionary on Linux. An excellent tool I’m addicted to. It is a DICT client written by the Italian geek Emmanuele Bassi. I use it when I’m on Linux, which I can dual-boot on my mobile as an alternative to Windows XP. It allows quick access to numerous dictionaries including the fascinating Webster 1913 edition. I wonder if I’ll ever find a Windows version.
    Update:
    here is the Dict.org web page, which is of course platform (OS)-independent. Great tool, also for English mother-tongues I believe, and a way of tasting Linux software big power.
  • The Thesaurus.com web page, which also has a dictionary and a reference section (Ask.com). The Roget’s Thesaurus is a classic for synonyms I used a lot in the past, but I now prefer this on-line resource based on the Roget’s Thesaurus II. I also possess the Webster’s Thesaurus in book form (the first from the bottom-left) but I don’t like it much. A searchable on-line Roget’s Thesaurus (1911) can be found here.
    Synonyms are a treasure for writing, like the word thesaurus suggests, but they are of little help if you don’t “feel” which is the right word among a long list of synonyms. Experience, again, matters.

Reference & Encyclopedias

  • Enciclopedia Italiana dell’Istituto Treccani, 1939, which I find among the best for topics regarding the humanities. La Piccola Treccani, 1995, is more up-to-date but it is much smaller.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. I have the 1965 Edition, 23 volumes, quite good. I sometimes prefer the 1911 Britannica although this on-line version contains lots of errors. The on-line Britannica is excellent, always up-to-date and not too expensive yearly.
  • The Wikipedia. I am a great fan of this remarkable tool, possibly the biggest encyclopaedia ever created (see a discussion in the comments section).
  • Answers.com. A very good on-line tool, both a dictionary and an encyclopaedia, with excerpts from the Wikipedia as well. I’m getting addicted to it also because of the add-on for the Firefox browser (Answers), which enables to alt-click on any word for dictionary and encyclopaedia immediate reference.

Note. Links on this post are not provided for commercial purposes.

38 thoughts on “Some Language and Reference Tools Utilized for this Blog

  1. A most impressive tool box, MoR. However I have some resevation on Wikipedia. That anyone can add his or her two cents worth on the entries bothers me. Whenever I use it, I always crosscheck with other sources…to be sure.

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  2. @Paul

    I also have doubts on Wikipedia. I consider it good only for an initial exploration, after which, as you say, other sources are necessary. But it is so vast that often some infos are present only there.

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  3. Well, if it’s only there I would be even more suspicious…but then I’m an old sceptic.

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  4. @Paul

    I know Paul that the bizarre and the expert are both there. But this variety can also be a strength and there’s some scrutiny, people caring for a topic are there to check. I read somewhere that the Wikipedia’s level of accuracy is not much behind that of Britannica. And Britannica has maybe a little more than 100,000 articles, while the English Wikipedia has now 2,731,000 articles!

    It is also the idea behind it that I like. Wikipedia is the biggest collaborative on-line encyclopaedia based on volunteer efforts.

    The Internet and Linux are other two examples of great volunteer collaboration. As for Internet, thousands of programmers all over the world have submitted (since the 60s-70s) their technical RFCs documents (Request for comments) to a board. These RFCs either bettered existing technologies or proposed new ones. The whole thing boosted up. We can now communicate here Paul thanks to these volunteer RFCs coming from anywhere.

    Now that everything becomes more mercenary such endeavours should in my view be encouraged.

    Having thus said, forget it now altogether Paul. I too watch out A LOT when reading Wikipedia, ah ah ah.

    🙂

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  5. I do agree with all you have written here. Watching where you step calls for walking. As for the volunteer aspect, I’m all for it.

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  6. Out of all of these, I envy you on one – The Encylopedia Brittanica in book form. I always dreamed of having one, back then it was too expensive and now it’s usually outdone by the internet. Darn, tech has killed so many desires. 😐

    The Wikipedia. I am a great fan of this remarkable tool, possibly the biggest encyclopaedia ever created (see a discussion on the comments section).
    Most of the high level articles are well written and usually have the correct facts. Search for more obscure things and well you see Wikipedia’s underbelly. 😀 But one thing is for sure, other credible sources might “refuse” to air that article even! So hats off Wikipedia! 😀 [What I am referring to is “Rock Music” in my Encarta where it gives an article to all and sundry as regards to Hard Rock/Heavy Metal but just freakin’ ignores Black Sabbath.. mentioning them in passing! UNACCEPTABLE! 😛 Wikipedia infact has a more complete entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_sabbath . It does miss a few details but it does have the founders of Heavy Metal. But then again, it also has porn stars too… 😈 ]

    Speaking of encyclopedia’s, my father once bought for me a book called Dorling and Kindersly’s Visual Dictionary from a salesman who had come to his office. It happened to be one of the best books to know about anything and everything with superb pictures. The book followed the theory of “A Picture speaks a 1000 words.” It went with all of my old book collection. I have since tried to find it everywhere even on DK’s website with no avail. If you find it, try it. It’s pretty good! Taught me how to say Yes and no in Japanese – Shi, BuShi… or was that Mandarin.. Darn! 😉

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    1. I envy you on one – The Encylopedia Brittanica in book form.

      Like every town we had/have in Rome this magazine Porta Portese where you buy and sell everything, from cars to Hi-Fi gear. I found many years ago a silly guy who had bought Britannica without knowing any English, just for showing it off in his living room. Tired of such uselessness he sold it to me for not more than 150 dollars. While elated I was bringing away the volumes from his apartment he asked me puzzled: “Excuse me, why on earth are you buying them?”

      I also like Wikipedia, as I said. With its 2,731,000 articles you find almost anything there, although we must bear in mind it is only a starting point and we need some cross-checking, as Paul suggests.

      a book called Dorling and Kindersly’s Visual Dictionary … It happened to be one of the best books … It went with all of my old book collection.

      Why? Did you sell your old books? I think one should never sell or lose old books and school books (although everyone does, me included). They have a great emotional and intellectual added value. My daughters sold all their high school books despite my vigorous protests and my telling them not to do it.

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  7. I must admit that this discussion had me take a second look at Wikipedia. It has at least one advantage: fast updating that the printed encyclopaedia do not have. Another one is no cost. To enjoy Brittannica on line you have to pay.
    Back in 1966 I bought a Collier’s Encyclopaedia, 21 volumes. Then, each year untill 2000 I recieved a Year book, updating the others. In 2000, it stopped publishing altoghether. I still refer to it for the past, but it is useless for post 2001.

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  8. @Paul

    Yes Paul, fast updating and extreme richness of information on all, even last-year singer or Obama’s wife dress. And it is *multilingual*. What you don’t find in a language you can find in another, and the perfect unbiased entry by an expert is a myth to a certain extent, in my opinion. On the other hand, even a crank’s entry can be thought-provoking, if one has criticism enough not to be misguided.

    PS
    Poor Paul, we have assaulted you with this Wikipedia thing 🙂

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  9. Why? Did you sell your old books?
    Lost ’em during a train journey when we were shifting. The bag was with me and I forgot it in hurry to catch the train. My mother wouldn’t hear any protests to get down at the next station. 😐

    MoR: Well, what a pity! But many books one can find them back in little street markets or E-bay 🙂

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  10. Assaulted is a big word. Refresh my judgment would be a better choice. Assaults like these I can withstand no ends.

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  11. Well laugh is good for health, it boosts morale and requires many less face muscles than crying. I’m all for it.

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  12. You work so hard! And you seem to be so meticulous. Did you work as a journalist or an academician before?

    I had more than 20 dictionaries in India (Hindi, English, Bangla, Urdu, Marathi), which I thought was a good collection, as not many people I knew were fond of spending on dictionaries. Neither am I particularly good in any language, nor do I have any literary skills or job, it is just that I find solace in dictionaries for many known and unknown reasons. 🙂

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  13. @Nomad

    Thank you Nomad. A good collection indeed! No, definitely not many people love dictionaries. My job career wasn’t always easy. I was a freelance journalist, among the rest, for almost 20 years, writing both in small newspapers and magazines & in major national ones.

    Playing with words is a solace to me as well. It goes back to the Italian Liceo Classico and to my old Greek and Latin professor Panichi, a severe man not deprived of a heart. And to that summer, when my habit started of keeping two books in my hands, one like glued to the other: the one I was reading and the pocket Webster. I derived pleasure from seeing my abilities grow. A sweet & obstinate pleasure, made of words, bits of good literature, American slang, and the smell of that red yellow Webster. Gods, no Italian book smelled like that.

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  14. Dictionaries are indeed wonderful things. I remember having to work on a committee whose members bickered for hours on the meaning of this or that word or phrase. One day I showed up with a Quillet dictionary. After two or three attempts at semantics defeated by my faithful Quillet we really got working. That book followed me everywhere thereafter. I became known as “the dictionary”. When we moved from Val-David to Longueuil where we have less space we had to part with some books. Poor Quillet went with them.

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  15. Ahh, wonderful to know another person who can speak of the smell of books like that 🙂 How the smell of a book can entice, delight and excite and how the memory of the smell can comfort! 🙂

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  16. @Nomad

    Oh yes, those lovely smells, each one different. Ah ah, it seems we’re a bunch of bookworms, aren’t we, you, me, Paul and maybe dear Ashish too. Well, books are so consoling. I need to read a bit before going to sleep, it brings me peace. Another thing I find good is the radio, which one can also listen in company. I regret we have lost in families the habit of collective reading.

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  17. MoR, “Mr dictionary” still has a few dictionaries, even a french/italian/french one. I have also kept my very old latin/french dictionary.
    I’m glad to be a gloom dissolvant. Welcome anytime.

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  18. Ah ah, it seems we’re a bunch of bookworms, aren’t we, you, me, Paul and maybe dear Ashish too.
    Well I can recite the whole of the Lord of the Rings without looking.. I’ve read it that many times… If that counts. 😛

    MoR: Well, what a pity! But many books one can find them back in little street markets or E-bay
    I’ve been using eBay to get back, but there are no good bookshops here. When I go to Mumbai, I buy some. 🙂

    MoR: Don’t consider me such a judge, lol. The Lord of the Rings counts a lot in my view, it is a great book.
    PS
    I hope you won’t be upset that I have accepted Reema’s tag …

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  19. Captain America? WWII is finished, man, plus my comics Marvels hero will always be Superman (and Clark Kent).

    Forever and ever.
    Bwahaha, Batman kicks Superman’s arse! 😛 *runs*

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  20. @Ashish

    AH!!! You’d better run, young man! Since MoR accepts absolutely NO COMPROMISE on Superman 🙂 🙂
    *prepares his Roman daga and shield for the fight*

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  21. This is like soccer maybe? A civilzed way of solving aggressivity? Except for some fans of course.

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