Pre-Google, the virtuous writer looking for the meaning of "nidus" took the muscle-building Webster's International Dictionary down from a shelf. If he wanted a second opinion, the answer was a shelf up in the massive Oxford English Dictionary.
As PCs landed on every cubicle desktop, workers were told to use Google to look up words, but only by typing "Merriam Webster" and the words in the search line.
Oh sure, the fastidious sniffed, Google could provide definition and synonyms for the consumer market, but word precision and richer understandings at a higher level could only be found elsewhere.
Now, it's Google's turn to sniff. As part of its efforts to revolutionize search, the search giant is now moving its dictionary service up more than a notch. Thursday, Google announced on its Google+ page that its Google Search is revamping the service to such a level that Americans can be motivated to use it directly as a sort of one-stop shop for dictionary search.
Words Over Time
"You may be familiar with using Google to find definitions, like [define fortuitous]. We've recently updated this feature on google.com on desktop and mobile to give you more information about these words beyond just their definition, Google said in a blog post.
The dictionary makeover introduces new features that will be welcome additions since Google Dictionary as a standalone product announced it was closing down in 2011 and integrating dictionary search as part of its search engine.
This time around, when you ask for a word you get more than a definition and a side order of synonym.
Google's dictionary service offers better detail when returning information. Namely, the Google dictionary offers a full-course meal of information including synonyms, translation in over 60 languages, sentences that illustrate how the word is used, word origins, and a graph that shows the historical usage frequency of the word, with the help of the Google Books Ngram Viewer. The Ngram Viewer is a graph, using a corpus of millions of books, that shows the use of a word over time.
As for translations, the user, who selects a language once, can expect future definition searches to consistently provide a translation to that same language.
The Spoken Word. Too
Now, Google also provides a spoken answer. According to Google, "If you tap the microphone on your Google Search app, you'll hear answers spoken back when you ask questions like "What's the definition of fortuitous?" and "What are synonyms for fortuitous?"
The dictionary enhancements are part of Google's long-range strategy: keep on keeping on, seeding the continuous path of improvement for rank as the ultimate search engine, along with providing the ultimate in services such as mail and maps.
As of Thursday's announcement, a flurry of comments from Google users poured in, and not all were breathless with anticipation.
Some were breathless with frustration. Interestingly, international Google users voiced disappointment that the service was first launching in the United States and not internationally.
Words Without Borders?
The full-course meal was making them hungry. Along with happy comments over the announcement such as "Awesome Google," were frustrated responses from users trying to find out why Google would not add dictionary features all over the globe since it is used all over the globe. A number of comments expressed hope that Google would roll out the service features globally sooner than later.
The Meaning of Nidus
By the way, "nidus" is a place in which something is formed or deposited; a site of origin, according to Google's dictionary service.