Using Google to Check Spelling. Has the dictionary seen its best day?

I very rarely use a dictionary any more. I write at my computer (or other peoples computers) and I can’t remember the last time I used a computer that wasn’t connected to the Internet.

If I don’t know how to spell something, I don’t look it up in a dictionary, I don’t even search for it on dictionary.com, I type it straight into the search box in the top right corner of my web browser (which today isFirefox). I get a set of results from Google which will either confirm my spelling or say “did you mean…”.

Do you do the same thing?

I love the social development of language. Once a word becomes commonly used, it usually makes it into the dictionary but it can take a while. Using Google as a dictionary means you don’t have to wait for the editors at Oxford to approve the new word; if people use it, you can find out how they spell it.

The downside to this is that I have to accept the American spellings of words will eventually replace the UK spelling of the same words – even though the the UK spellings are the originals! Google is the ultimate social proof and the eventual merging of language is inevitable (no matter how much people will protest). For example, a search for the word ‘colour’ (note the U) will return 215,000,000 results. A search for the word ‘color’ (no U) will return 1,070,000,000 results.

In the past, people have tried to control the evolution language but all they have really done is slow down the change. Language cannot be controlled (although it can be used to control) and now language has been freed to evolve on its own at a much quicker pace. Encyclopedic knowledge has been freed by the Internet, in particular Wikipedia and the same will happen with the definition of words.

I still use a dictionary for reference every now and then, but a Google search can certainly help with that too.