YiLing Chen-Josephson gives a spin around the block to “seven of the relatively affordable and frequently updated college dictionaries” and rates them on a point system (for stock, definitions, usage guidance, etymologies, and enjoyment) in a Slate article. It’s an enjoyable read for anyone who loves dictionaries (and, as it happens, I agree with her 1-2 picks), even if (as Mark Liberman, from whom I got the link, says) the “methodology is simultaneously quantitative and arbitrary” and someone else might come up with different results. Mark complains that she doesn’t evaluate online versions, but as a diehard print man I’m happy to stick with the paper versions.


  1. I scanned, as is usual for me in an article where I want to see rankings and such, and at first missed her note that it was from “worst to best”. Thus I was able, for fifteen seconds (before noting my mistake) to have a great shock and almost let out (in that popular Internet and MeFi usage) “WHAT.THE.FUCK.YILING?!”
    What fun! Anyway, I too agree with the first and second choice and as I mentioned in an earlier set of comments, love my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Electronic Pocket Dictionary (although I am grateful to have the OED to consult at home), but if the OUP were to release a little OED in iPod form factor I would be robbing little old ladies in my eagerness to acquire one. Although I prefer any lengthy reading on paper, the little electronic reference is an excellent form factor for a dictionary entry, even the ones spanning several pages, and is an excellent library companion or when one doesn’t wish to disturb the flow of reading as much. Portability and all.

  2. Yeah, I forgot to mention that I also failed to notice the worst-to-first ordering and started working up a head of outraged steam.

  3. Me too, me too!

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