I’m going to tell you about a secret weapon I’ve been using for years in my writing, song writing, and naming of things: Wordnik. I’ve used Wordnik to change up wording and come up with creative phrasing, browse words for interesting ones, and to follow ideas and explore concepts. What I do is start at a word I’m interested in or think might work for a concept, and then I follow all the various related words and this expands into even more conceptual ideas. What I like about Wordnik is the collaborative nature of it and how it seems to be a “modern OED”, being more of a description of how English is rather than a proscription of how it should be.
Wordnik acts as a kind of inspiration engine for me because it has so many relational features. From one word, such as allocate, I can see all of this:
- The definition from several sources.
- Examples of the usage in the popular press.
- Currently known etymologies, which is very important to me since I like using old weird words like “octothorpe” to mess with people.
- Related words in every form you can think of, which is essential when you’re doing creative writing or naming something.
- Images related to the word, which I’ve used in exploring painting ideas.
- Hear official and user created pronunciations of the word.
So if you’re wondering how in the hell I come up with such awesome names for my projects, cram complex ideas into a tweet, and turn the phrase, then Wordnik is my main word tool.
One thing I do, almost every day, is something called object writing, and I use Wordnik’s “I always feel lucky” button to do that. I just roll over to there, click the button, and work for 10 minutes on that word. Today’s word is entropy and I’ll do a 10 minute piece of writing that explores all of my senses through that word, but Wordnik makes this even better because if I don’t like that word I use the Relate feature to find another word, or sometimes I’ll setup an extra level of difficulty where I use two related words.
If you want to improve your writing then start doing this every day. It takes 10 minutes and will dramatically change your writing.
One Million Words
Wordnik right now is trying to do an ambitious dictionary project where they want to add one million missing words to their online dictionary. The philosophy of Wordnik is to make the dictionary a description of what’s being used, not a proscription of what should be valid English. Uptight weirdos will yell at you that “Ain’t is not a word!” Well, those uptight assholes are wrong. English is a language that steals words from every language it touches and makes it easy to invent new ones.
With that in mind, Wordnik has spawned a Kickstart to add a million missing words to their online, free, collaborative, and easy to use dictionary. If you love words like I do, then this is a great project to back. I mean, you probably backed a stupid watch that will do everything your phone does and probably fail to even talk to your phone. You’ve probably backed a bunch of really crappy comic books, oh and let’s not forget that really terrible card game you never play. And let’s face it, some of you have put money into Wikipedia just so the deletionists can continue to make sure that the only knowledge left is of wealthy assholes, politicians, and Linux distros.
I mean come on, you gave money to Wikipedia, the organization that thinks I, a three time published author is not notable enough to have a page, but gives GNewSense Linux a fucking page. A total of 3 people probably used that distro, and you donated money to keep that pointless piece of information around.
Wordnik is way better. Help them help everyone catalog all of English by clicking this link.