Recently, as I delighted over the sight of my brand new two-volume New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary stationed commandingly amongst the paperbacks and graphic novels on my bookshelf, I thought about how anachronistic a dictionary seems these days. Can you remember the last time you looked up a word in an actual, physical dictionary? (I can, but as we’ve well established I’m a severe dweeb.) Not that I don’t use the Web to look up words and synonyms; Merriam-Webster.com is one of the few buttons on my bookmark toolbar and it’s the quickest way, hands down.
So I figured, if I’m using online dictionaries and thesauri even while being nerdily enamored of the yellowed, brittle pages of my long-coverless Webster’s New World and the fragile leaves of my long-coveted OED, then most people probably go even more frequently, if not exclusively, to the Internet for definitions. And what are they most often looking up? To my surprise, when I typed “definition of” into Google, I found that people aren’t searching Cyberspace for mere meanings, they’re searching for Meaning.