• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

I am a very happy little language addict this week, because I have
just stumbled upon the all-time ultimate global dictionary site.
Webster’s Web Of Online
Dictionaries

contains links to over 800 well-indexed online dictionaries of 160,
count ‘em, 160 different languages. And let me tell you, some of the
languages on tap here are something else! I’d have expected to find a
plethora of online resources available in, say,
German
or
Greek.
The existence of such resources for languages like
Latvian
and Xhosa
comes as a little more of a surprise. But that’s peanuts. Webster’s Web
hasn’t even gotten started yet. Languages covered here that seriously
float my boat include
Manx, a Celtic
tongue related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic that hails, or once hailed,
from the Isle of Man;
Basque,
a language spoken in the Pyrenee Mountains between France and Spain that
is not only unrelated to French or Spanish, but has never been plausibly
identified as related to any other language extant on Earth (and
how cool is that?); and
Romany, the language
of the European wanderers that used to be called gypsies.

And it just gets better. There are links here for languages I, a
certifiable (and I’m sure many of my friends would say I use that adverb
advisedly) “language person,” have never even heard of before. Watch
your horizons broaden at the speed of light as you investigate languages
like Uyghur, an ancient Turkic
language from one of the remotest parts of Central Asia. (Parents and
students, take note! Any social-studies teacher worth his or her salt
should be way impressed when you come up with a great project topic like
this, and the site is tremendously helpful: everything you need to get
you started exploring the Uyghur language and culture is right
here.) Or, you might choose
to dabble in Wolof, which turns out to be a Senegalese language (and in
which you have your choice, yet, of
French-to-Wolof-to-French
or
Wolof-to-English
– a slow link, that last one). Even several fictional-languages have
their own resources listed: there’s a Star
Trek
shrine or two,
and an impressive site devoted to
Tolkien‘s invented languages
which I admit I bookmarked. Tolkien himself, whose day job was
linguist/medievalist and whose edition of the Middle English “Sir Gawain
and the Green Knight” remains definitive several decades later, would
have absolutely loved Webster’s Web.

Plain dictionaries aren’t even all there is to this site. Whole other
sections are devoted to online grammars, thesauri, multilingual
dictionaries, and specialized English dictionaries in subjects like
music,
hunting,
philosophy,
and
textiles
(textiles?!) There’s a section (very properly entitled “linguistic fun”)
that’s devoted to
linguistics
itself (oh joy, oh rapture), with offerings including word puzzles and
games. And — get this — there are “language identifiers and
guessers”

(oh ecstasy, oh transcendent bliss), along with an assortment of cool
tools such as morphological analyzers, verb conjugators, parsers and
other translation aids, and word frequency indexers.

Okay. All right. I’ll calm down and breathe deeply. Maybe I’m a bit
of a freak to be quite so wildly enthusiastic about Webster’s Web. But
you have to admit that even apart from its practical value, considered
as a sheer time-suck, this beats Tetris hollow. If it isn’t clear by now
that I consider site manager Robert Beard a
deeply enlightened being, it should be.

Tweak your own typeface

Speaking of words, or at least the letters that make them up:
High-Logic’s Font Creator Program 1.0 lets you create and modify
TrueType font files. You don’t have to start from scratch to design your
personal font: this program will let you modify existing typefaces using
the fonts in Windows 3.11 and higher. Features include the ability to
load and save TFF files and unlimited undo and redo options.
Download
it free from the computing department of Netscape’s
NetCenter,
which has recently begun offering a wider range of shareware that’s not
limited to browser plug-ins and such.

State of the union?

Here’s the
link
to the full text of that “shocking” JAMA (that’s the Journal of
the American Medical Association, to you) article everyone’s been up in
arms about: “Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and
Predictors” (E.O. Laumann, A. Paik, R. C. Rosen; 1999;281:537-544). Read
it yourself before you buy the ubiquitous hype. The University of
Chicago authors of the article come to the following earth-shattering
conclusions that sexual dysfunction is somewhat more prevalent among
women than among men and that it is associated with poor health,
negative experiences and “overall well-being.” Well, no kidding: I could
have told you that without spending a lot of grant money on research and
analysis. None of those results strain the credulity all that much, if
you ask me. So what on earth is all the fuss and hysteria about? Far be
it from me to impugn a
colleague,
but I don’t quite understand why everyone has to get their knickers in a
twist every time another study of American sexuality presents us with a
fresh lot of perfectly obvious and intuitive conclusions. It seems
rather a pity that the important recent
revelations (click

to purchase Dr. Reisman’s exposé) concerning the personal pathologies of
early-twentieth-century seminal sexologist Kinsey and his cohorts should
be casting a shadow upon present-day researchers like Dr. Laumann and
his coauthors.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.