Web Smarts


WHAT: This site, devoted to exploring the English language, is the Web page of Michael Quinion, who also provides citations for the Oxford English Dictionary.

BEST POINTS: Quinion's site contains definitions and discussions of topical words - words in the news, or just starting life. For example, it defines "e-lancer" as a freelance/at-home employee, and "Nanosofts" as the several smaller companies that Microsoft may one day become. There's a section on "weird" words like shenanigan; a regular column reviewing new books on words; and a question and answer section, where viewers can pose queries directly (Q: Where does the word nebbishy come from? A: From the Yiddish word nebech, meaning roughly "You poor thing!"). Quinion has compiled an enormous list of words and phrases that are in fairly regular use but not yet in most dictionaries, such as ebonics, heroin chic, Intranet, millennium bug, and nocebo. He also lists the world's longest word: a 1,913-character term for a protein. And he gives an extremely cogent answer to the widely circulated and immensely frustrating riddle about the third word ending in "gry."

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The site requires no form of registration, and it is free. American users should be aware, however, that Quinion is English, and so he uses British spellings and pronunciations - and even some of his new words and phrases are uniquely British, such as "Cool Britannia" and "Blairism."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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