POOT-yin/POOCH-in (prons in dicts)

Frank Abate fabate at BLR.COM
Wed Aug 9 17:02:44 UTC 2000

On Wed, 9 Aug 2000, Frank Abate wrote:

> > So I take issue, in this instance, with Steve's "if it ain't broke
>.  . ." statement.  I believe that most dict users just ignore the
> prons.  Moreover, I believe that most users rarely go to a dict to look
> up a pron.  The great, great majority of "look-ups" are to check
>spelling and meaning.

Steve K. replied:

In the instances where people do go to a dictionary to specifically look
up a pronunciation, would you hazard a guess as to whether they would then
use the pron key, particularly if the pron key is printed on every spread?
In the AHD, it's out in the column and noticeable, so the user doesn't
have to go far to use it.


Steve: For those times a dict user DOES go to look up a pron (a tiny minority of overall dict look-ups, I contend), sure, they might look to the pron key, if it's handy, as on every spread, as it has been in most of the top Amer dicts.  But even these curious folks might have trouble with a key.  We'd have to ask in a survey.

But, note that the new Web New World 4th ed. (1999) now has no pron key in the text, just a note sending users to the front matter.  The WNW folks have decided that the space for more entries is more valuable than the pron key being printed 750 or so times.  I think they made a sound decision.

We (that is, dict editors) need a sizable survey of real users to determine how dicts are actually used, and for what purposes people turn to them, and how satisfied they are after use.  I have only my personal observations and intuition to go on.

Could ADS sponsor a survey of dictionary users?  Sent by email (no mailing cost)?  I'll be happy to draft one, if there is some assurance that it will be sent and the responses compiled, for general use, no restrictions.

Frank Abate

Dictionary & Reference Specialists (DRS)
Consulting & Lexicographic Services
phone: (860) 510-0100, ext 2311
email:   abatefr at earthlink.net

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