Saturday, November 24, 2007

The trouble with your fast dictionary

Reddit's been drawing some attention lately to a site called Definr, which bills itself as an "incredibly fast dictionary" and which the goofy description at Reddit calls an "amazing, secret online dictionary." Ooh. Personally, I've never found either dictionary.com or m-w.com (Merriam-Webster) to be noticeably slow, so I didn't get all that excited by Ninjawords.com ("A really fast dictionary... fast like a ninja.") But amazing and secret, though? That's intriguing. How can you not check that out?

Visiting Definr moments ago to try it out, I didn't have a word in mind I needed to look up. I immediately noticed, though, they've got a little announcement right now reading "We're currently getting hammered by Digg and Reddit! (not that it will slow us down)." Taking this as a suggestion, I entered "hammered" as my test word.

Definr returns one definition, with no links to other forms of the word. Simply, "adj : shaped or worked with a hammer and often showing hammer marks: 'a bowl of hammered brass'." That's all they give us, and it doesn't fit their own use of the word.

Meanwhile, dictionary.com offers, without much delay and from such known sources as the American Heritage and Random House dictionaries, over a dozen different definitions for various forms of the word, including the precisely relevant "To keep at something continuously."

Ninjawords, meanwhile, ("fast like an ineffectual ninja") draws from wiktionary.com and defines "hammered" with one simple word: "drunk." Right. Thanks. M-w.com offers for "hammered" as an adjective only "having surface indentations ..." and "drunk," but prominently offers on the same page five definitions for the verb "hammer,"which do a pretty good job at making things clear.

I'll stick with dictionary.com, with an occasional m-w detour. Honestly, Definr and Ninjawords have much, much cooler names. But how good is fast but useless?