January 31, 2001
Few people have a favorite dictionary for leisure reading and even fewer would choose the all-inclusive Oxford English Dictionary.
"It has over half a million words in 20 volumes and no word ever goes out, even if it's obsolete. It is a true record of the English language," Anu Garg said.
The dictionary of dictionaries often serves as the fuel for Garg's passion, the A Word A Day "wordserver."
Garg's creation, located on the Internet at wordsmith.org, provides a new word each day with its definition, usage, pronunciation and an inspiring quote of the day to more than 360,000 linguaphiles in 195 countries.
best thing about this is the community of linguaphiles ... I feel very privileged
to be a part of it."
Linguaphile (LING-gwuh-fyl): n, a lover of languages and words.
"I was always very fascinated with words and one day I thought it would be nice if everyday I signed on to my computer it would show me a new word," he said.
From this the word-a-day subscription service was born on March 14, 1994.
Through word of mouth -- and, later, coverage in more than 300 publications -- the server's popularity grew from 1,279 word lovers in 1994 to its present-day total.
"The best thing about this is the community of linguaphiles. They are very devoted and compassionate and provide good feedback and interesting ideas. I feel very privileged to be a part of it," Garg said.
Each week Garg chooses a theme and the words that will be sent to his subscribers. This week's theme is unusual synonyms.
Tocology, also known as the science of childbirth, is one of the words in this theme. Tokos, the root of the word, is Greek for childbirth but obstetrics is commonly used instead.
Garg was featured in the December 2000 issue of Smithsonian Magazine and has seen the wordserver's popularity swell even more since.
"It's interesting to see how far the Smithsonian Magazine goes. I've received e-mail from all over the world in response to that article," Garg said.
In addition to a daily word e-mailed to your computer, anyone can e-mail the wordserver and request a definition, synonym, anagram or that an acronym be expanded.
Having the server based as an e-mail utility instead of the many Web-based word-a-day servers found today helps because e-mail is the most-used application of the Internet. In 1994, it was far more popular than Web surfing, Garg said.
A subscription to the word-a-day service is free and only requires that one be a lover of words and have an e-mail address. To subscribe, go to wordsmith.org.
"Right now it's a labor of love but we are looking to generate revenue somehow in the future," he said. Garg said he isn't sure yet how he will use his Web site to make money but is considering a few alternatives including advertisements and corporate sponsorship.
More than 20 hours of research each week goes into selecting the themes and words and answering e-mail from subscribers and maintaining the site, which receives 12,000 hits every week, Garg said.
Stuti Garg, Anu Garg's wife, also spends much of her time with the wordserver recording the pronunciation of every word sent out.
Garg lives on Columbus' East Side and is a consultant for AT&T Labs in Reynoldsburg. He is from northern India and received his master's degree in computer science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1995.