This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Definitions: a rant.

According to the dictionary, a definition is a formal statement of the exact meaning of a word.

And what does meaning mean?

Sense or significance.

Okay, so let's see if we can discover the meaning of one or two words by looking them up in a dictionary.

Elastance: physics the reciprocal of capacitance. It is measured in reciprocal farads (darafs).

Hm, well, that's cleared that up, then (though I note with delight the use of backslang: farad/daraf. Neat).

In case you're thinking, yes, but that's science and no one can understand that stuff anyway, here's a definition of becket:

a clevis forming part of one end of a sheave, used for securing standing lines by means of a thimble.

Got that, have you?

No, I thought not. I think it's something to do with the ropes that hold up the sails of a ship.

Finally, here's a definition from the great lexicographer Samuel Johnson.

Network: Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.

But of course Dr Johnson was taking the mickey.

Don't you just love him?

Word To Use Today...good grief...I think we'd better go with network, don't you. The net bit comes from the Old English net, which meant net.


  1. What dictionary do you use??

    In the Shorter OED, 'becket' is defined as: 'A contrivance of rope-loop, hook, bracket, etc, used to secure loose ropes, tackle, or spars,' which kind of makes sense to me.

    I read once (somewhere) that one of the first rules of a good dictionary definition is that it doesn't use more complex or obscure words than the word being defined.

    I don't think that rule had been established in D.J's time : o )

  2. Hi, Ed.
    I use the Collins English Dictionary, the Concise Oxford, and the Oxford English Dictionary. I also online resources such as the Merriam-Webster and the free online dictionary.

    I didn't like to say where these definitions come from, but, as long as you won't spread it, the becket and elastance definitions were both from the Collins.