Electronic Dictionaries Bug Me.

They just don’t do context or nuance. Sometimes I wish my students would ask me rather than look at an electronic dictionary. Even a paper one would be better.

J is a bright, inquisitive boy who is also very shy. Yesterday as he was looking through a context clue exercise, he frowned at the page, mouthed something and went to his electronic dictionary. I watched him search the dictionary entry as though scrying for an omen. Frown. Look back at the page, then back at the dictionary. Finally he looked up at me.

“Logos is…universe?”
“Hmm, let me see.” I look down at the exercise. It says Logos, as in the plural of logo, meaning symbol. I look at him. “Universe?” I can’t make the connection.
“Yes. Universe. Big. Everything.” He looks down at the dictionary. “Um. God.”

Light bulb moment.

“Oh!” I say.”No. This is the plural of ‘logo’, meaning a sign or symbol for something else. Like a swoosh for Nike or red for stop.” I watch to make sure he’s following. “Logos in your dictionary is a whole other word: It’s from Ancient Greek.” I explain as much as I can remember about the concept of the word, and logic, and how Christianity translated it (which isn’t much) and J looks a lot less confused.

But, really, it was yet another instance of the electronic dictionary not having the common sense of a human being.

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