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Bernard M -- Taipei English Tutor

Bernard M - English Conversation / TOEFL / IELTS 一對一英文會話

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dangerous Dictionaries

On occasion I here someone complain about the degradation of academic standards caused by the internet. Who would have thought once there was a similar complaint about dictionaries. The quote below is from The Preliminary Discourse To the Encyclopedia of Diderot, written by d'Alembert ( Part III, p. 106-107, translated by Richard N. Schwab, University of Chicago Press, 1995). The Encyclopedia was an enormous undertaking of 28 volumes worked on between 1751 and 1772, much of it secretly for fear of government censors.
See: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/projects/encyc/
The evident utility of works of this sort has made them so common that our task in this day is to justify rather than to praise them. It is contended that by multiplying the aids and the facility for self-instruction, dictionaries will contribute to extinguishing the taste for work and study. As for us, we believe there are good grounds for asserting that our indolence and the decadence of good taste should be attributed to the passion for wit and cleverness and to the abuse of philosophy, rather than to the multitude of dictionaries.

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