An iPad-only app that displays networks of word associations in trees that unfold into branches and sub-branches of meaning.
Words have meanings—and sometimes subtle ones. Words also live in communities that a “fancy-pants” (“superior or high-class in a pretentious way”) would call a “semantic domain.” Playing within that domain is the strength of this well-made app, which leverages the power of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide definitions and pronunciations. It also leverages mind-mapping principles (as found in software such as iThoughts and PersonalBrain) to show where a word lives within its community: Type “eat” into the search box, for instance, and up floats a cloud of words that includes the phrases “eaten up,” “what’s eating you,” “eat like a horse” and “eat someone out of house and home,” among other possibilities. Tap on the boldface term “eat,” and up springs a diagram with paths to noun, verb, phrases and phrasal verbs; follow the verb to the general idea “consume,” and up spring “snack,” “graze” and “nosh” along one branch (the informal one, that is), with possibilities that include “scarf,” “snarf,” “ingurgitate” (rare, the app helpfully notes) and “stuff one’s face.” If readers need a record of this groaning board of synonymy, then with a tap, an 1100 x 1576 pixel poster can be generated for printing, emailing or even posting on Facebook. The relationships among synonyms, antonyms, parts of speech and the like offer endless avenues of exploration; add to that the ability to reorder trees by dragging and dropping, and the word lover who chomps into this treat may never emerge. The user interface is both beautiful and unobtrusive, and it is easy to add words to a list of favorites, as well as to keep track of one’s journey through the rabbit hole by way of a history function.
A welcome addition to a logophile’s arsenal—the last word, we learn, coming from an Arabic phrase meaning “house of industry,” though this is a lot more fun than all that.