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The Dictionary!

You're probably using the wrong dictionary

I do not have this first kind of dictionary. In fact I would have never thought to use a dictionary the way McPhee uses his, and the simple reason is that I've never had a dictionary worth using that way. If you were to look up the word "intention" in my dictionary here's all you would see: "a thing intended; an aim or plan." No, I don't think I'll be punching up my prose with that.

But somehow for McPhee, the dictionary — the dictionary! — was the fount of fine prose, the first place he'd go to filch a phrase, to steal fire from the gods.

Then do this:

  • Download this archive from S3.
  • Unzip it and launch the DictUnifier app.
  • Drag the stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2.tar.bz2 file, still compressed, onto that app’s little drag-and-drop area. It might take a few seconds before the conversion process starts. Once it does, it’ll take about 30 minutes to finish.
  • The dictionary will now be available in your Dictionary app. (If not, you may need to enable it in the app’s Preferences pane, as here.) But its formatting may look a little off. If the lines are squished together, open ~/Library/Dictionaries/dictd_www.dict.org_web1913.dictionary/Contents/DefaultStyle.css in a text editor and add the following directive…

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