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Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars W3 or OED?, 29 Mar. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Hardcover)
There are only two definitive English language dictionaries: Webster's Third (W3) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
The OED has the advantage of scholarship, prestige and preeminence: it is generally regarded as the gold standard in the definition of English words. It achieves this primarily by citing historical books and manuscripts, going back in many cases to the dark ages, when the language itself was evolving. Comprising some 22 volumes and requiring more than three feet of shelf space, it is an impressive addition to anyone's library, albeit at a high cost. It is available, again at high cost, on CD ROM.
W3 is a single volume about four inches wide. It offers a precise definition of every word you will ever encounter (450,000 are listed) except for slang and jargon, obsolete words, technical vocabularies and recent additions to the language. It is not above providing an occasional literary allusion. It defines the English language.
Suppose you want to look up the word "synecdoche." Which of the following scenarios do you prefer?
(1) Find volume 10 of the OED and learn that Wyclif (1338) defined it as "whanne a part is set for al, either al is set for oo par . . ."
(2) Start computer, find CD ROM, load CD ROM, go to OED, step through program, find information, unload CD ROM, turn off computer, file CD ROM, go back to what you were doing in the first place.
(3) Open W3 and read "a figure of speech by which a part is put for a whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships) . . ."
W3 is THE dictionary. It belongs in everyone's home. At the listed price it is an incredible bargain. Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Dec 2009 17:51:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Dec 2009 17:51:56 GMT
This is a singularly asinine comparison. It does not compare like with like. The point which the reviewer has missed ( or has chosen to miss ) is that the OED is a dictionary 'based on historical principles', that is, not only does it define what a word means today, it defines what that word has ever meant. I own Webster, the complete OED, the 'shorter Oxford', the Concise Oxford ( which wins all battles of physical manageability and richness of content ), Collins and Chambers; I use them all; and I regard it as a stupidity or a sign of vested commercial interest to write reviews such as that above.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jan 2012 10:12:39 GMT
KV says:
Most ordinary folks do not have the luxury of time nor money to own and frequently use the number of dictionaries you mention.
Biased as this review may be, it provides more guidance for individuals seeking to put their finite amount of money and time to best possible use, not necessarily optimally, which may be the argument to own all of the dictionaries, as you seem to suggest, but with a sense of reasonable assurance that one is in good hands.

Posted on 13 Nov 2012 23:23:25 GMT
SCW says:
More realistically:

Take down Volume 17 of OED2 from shelf.
Look up synecdoche and find this definition:
"A figure by which a more comprehensive term is used for a less comprehensive
or vice versa; as whole for part or or part for whole, genus for species or species for genus etc."
This definition is preceded by a full treatment of the etymology of the word and followed by a dozen or so quotations illustrating its use from 1388 to 1900.


Click on desktop shortcut to open OED2 from hard drive.
Press 'Dictionary', enter 'synecdoche' in search box and press 'Enter'.
It took me a total twelve seconds to open the entry.

W3 is a fine dictionary but was never intended to be the same kind of
dictionary as OED. Each has its place but it pays to spend a little time
learning about the differences between the two.
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