red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

A.Word.A.Day

your daily dip into English vocabulary

 

When listening to contemporary music or watching the last few years of TV and movies, you might be tempted to think that the extent of our ability to express the full range of our feelings, emotions, and circumstances is covered in about half a dozen four-letter words — and I'm not talking "snow," "rain," "heat," "cold." No, not all of our overhyped and mediated culture has been reduced to the lowest common denominator, but any given day provides ample opportunity to wonder if we have sunk too low to see the edge of the pit.

Rather than stay on the downbeat run to the basement, check out the very clean-looking website at Wordsmith.org and sign up for the free A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) online service. You'll also find a link to the book of the same name, published in 2003.

Once you subscribe to the e-letter or other online feeds, you get a succinct message five days a week and a once-a-week summary of subscriber responses to the week's selections. Often, readers share additional uses or pithy bits of background information that make their comments well worth the read.

A.Word.A.Day itself is direct and to-the-point. Each message contains a word, its pronunciation (both spelled out with appropriate emphasis and in a permanent audio file, so you can hear what it's actually supposed to sound like), one or more definitions (as appropriate to the complexity of the word), one or more examples of the word used in published writings, and (my favorite!) a quirky quotation that may or may not have anything to do with the day's word. No matter; it always offers an interesting perspective.

The Wordsmith website also provides links to its other services, including an online bulletin board and chat room. The Wordlover's Library Project, supported by the Harnisch Family Foundation, intends to put the AWAD book in one library anywhere in the world every day. They did a pretty good job between its publication in March 2003 and November of 2004.

The Internet Anagram Server does the hard work of sorting through the combinations of letters you enter into the search function to generate a list of additional words made from the same letters. (Not familiar with the magic of anagrams? Log on, poor soul. Play to your heart's content and be amazed!)

If you only have a computer that provides email, not a Web browser, the Wordserver offers email access to the reference services of a dictionary, thesaurus, acronym finder, and the anagram finder, as well as the AWAD vocabulary finder.

Listat is for the Web pros in the house. It's a package that generates "interesting statistics on mailing list demographics." Want to know who in the group is really reading the messages sent to your email list? This is the computer software for you — and it's another freebie!

Founded in 1994 by Anu Garg, then a graduate student in computer science and eventually an Internet consultant for AT&T Labs, A.Word.A.Day offers an easy and delightful way to expand your vocabulary — and your skill with words in general.

 

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