04 April 2007

Dictionary Madness

For the past months I've been working on my Master Word List, something every professional crossword writer needs.

Crossword words are an unusual subset - plurals, superlative forms (-ier -est ) and verb & adverb forms (-ing -ly etc) are best avoided, there should no offensive or swear words, no gory, medical or highly technical terms, no sexual terms, no really depressing words (coffin, cadaver, suicide etc), no American spellings, etc. So I'm removing as many words as I'm putting in. I'm adding things like well-known Australian slang, place names from around the world, foody terms, very short phrases, and names of well known people. My word list helps give the crosswords I write "my style", so it's a vital part of my professional 'tool kit'.

I have a basic word list (of ~ 58,000 words) which is from an American university - but it's not a really good list as it contains many American spellings, mixed with UK spellings, lots of technical scientific terms, names of chemical compounds, disease names, etc, and lots of variant forms of words, some of which have been automatically generated and aren't real words. For example, coming up soon is :
  • coincide
  • coincided
  • coincidence
  • coincidences
  • coincident
  • coincidental
  • coincidentally
  • coincidents
  • coincides
  • coinciding
Out of these, I'll probably only leave coincide, coincidence, coincides, and maybe coincided.

So I'm going through the list word-by-word, checking it against the Australian Oxford Dictionary (AOD). Yeah, I'm reading the whole dictionary. Pity my memory isn't good enough to remember every word!

In the side bar you'll see a new item, which is which word I'm up to, what number it is in the Master List, and which page I'm up to in my Australian Oxford Dictionary. Just to help me keep track of this huge job, and get some sense of progress. It's taking quite some time. I don't work on it every day, but really should do at least 10 pages of the AOD every weekday if I want to finish by the end of the year!

And now, just cos Julie did it, here's which die I am :

I am a d12

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

"You are the rare, the overlooked, yet incredibly useful dodecahedron: the d12. You are a creative, romantic soul. You often act without thinking, but make up for your lack of plans with plenty of heart. You easily solve problems that stump others, but your answers tend to put you into even deeper trouble. You write long, detailed backgrounds for all your characters, and are most likely to dress up as one or get involved in cos-play. You can be silly at times and are easily distracted by your own day dreams, but are at the end of the day you're someone who can be depended on."

Yup. Sounds about right (especially during my old AD&D playing days... quiet you - it was a long time ago!) LOL!


  1. Could've used your list last week when the nephew and I combed the Concise Oxford for "s" words to describe dinosoars. He was doing an acrostic as homework. He settled on "stupendously stonkered" after hours of fun with the dictionary. I think I've found my word addict for the next generation. :)

  2. oh well done Jejune. I'll be cheering your efforts.

    dodecohedron is a great word. It makes me think of Lisa simpson - she taught Maggie to say that word.

    And I just remembered, looking at your sidebar, about iLike. I hadn't gotten around to finishing installing that.

    Something for the Easter Break.

  3. Oh the word list is a big job but it looks pretty engrossing! And easy to tick off your progress through the alphabet!


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