If you have accidentally double-clicked on any word in an online New York Times story recently, you've seen a question-mark icon indicating that one more click will get you a definition of the word. That's a huge improvement over the previous version of the "feature," which went straight to the dictionary after that second click, interrupting anyone with a twitchy mouse finger, including a journalism professor trying to highlight a well-turned phrase or tightly-edited lead for class discussion.
But here's another bonus: Now that a good many of those mistaken clicks have been eliminated, the Times is able to compile a list of the words people look up... including some word choices that aren't in the news writing textbooks.
- See this fascinating report and discussion of the words that generate the most clicks, thanks to Zachary M. Seward at Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab.
- My favorite copy editor, Pam Robinson, at Words at Work, found most of these links, including a "Wordle" map of the terms and a list of reasonably correct definitions, rescued from the depths of Metafilter's discussion thread.
- Also see this funny list of bad guesses at what the words mean.
No word on when the Times might add the click-for-definition feature to the print edition.