Monday, August 15, 2011

Merriam-Webster on YouTube

For queries about British English usage, my first port of call is usually Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, but I'm increasingly becoming a fan of the American Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. I especially like their Top Ten Words features and vocabulary quizzes.
I've now discovered that they have a YouTube channel with very short (two minutes or less) videos on various aspects of English.

These are mainly designed for native speakers and they speak at normal speed, but they are very short, so you can just listen again.
Merriam-Webster's philosophy is based very much on current usage, rather than on outdated rules. They have excellent usage notes on their online dictionary pages, especially on the more controversial topics.
And they have a Learner's Dictionary, which I haven't really investigated, but which includes a list of 3000 words you should know.
Check out Merriam-Webster's YouTube channel or you can find the list of videos at Merriam-Webster itself.

Videos on controversial topics

  • Who vs whom - first they give the grammar and then they comment on current usage
  • Fewer vs less - Tescos should have listened to this (see story) - Long live 'Ten items or less'! See comments below.
  • Ending a sentence with a preposition - some people (but not many nowadays) still think it's wrong.
  • Hopefully - some people think you shouldn't use hopefully as a sentence adverb to mean 'I hope'. Hopefully, less*** people feel like that nowadays.

Videos on general problems

Videos on interesting topics


*** Traditionally speaking I should have used fewer there and not less. But less was what first came to mind, and I don't seem to be alone. Check out Google Books, for example. There's also a discussion at Using English and a song by Air Supply - Two less lonely people in the world (although not exactly my cup of tea, I must admit). In fact this rule seems to have stemmed from just one gentleman, a certain Mr. Baker in 1770 (see Wikipedia), and only really took off from the late nineteenth century.


Baiba said...

My favourite online dictionary for many years has been The Free Dictionary by Farlex but now I'll take a look at this one. The video channel seems to be of great help to advanced learners and teachers (like me). Thanks for this post!

Warsaw Will said...

Hi Baiba. I quite like the Free Dictionary as well, and have their app on my Android phone. The app is great, because you can use voice search. The online version also has good usage notes taken from other dictionaries.

But sometimes I like to check in several dictionaries, which is really easy with my dictionary gadget at the top of the page. You can just cycle through them.

Wordnik and the Entymology Dictionary, to name but two, can be very interesting. Especially as I don't have access to the OED.

Baiba said...

I checked your dictionary gadget, it is great because you can look up the word without leaving the page. But I am in doubt as to the usefulness of the Google translate page. I tried it for this page and the result (in Latvian) was hilarious and total bul.... :-)

Warsaw Will said...

I agree with you about Google Translate, but some people were already doing it, so I decided to make it easier for them.

I tried it in Polish, and it came up with the word Bigos (a Polish dish),and I couldn't understand why, until I realised that's how it was translating 'mish-mash'!