Reading the Dictionary

I have a confession to make: I am a bibliophile. Reading, owning, perusing, lending, alphabetizing and buying books are all things that make me happy. High on my list are hardcover graphic novels and quality dictionaries. One of the skills you learn quickly while reading a dictionary (so I hear) is how to look up words. Of course the words in a dictionary are laid out in a very orderly fashion; first the ‘A’s then the ‘B’s, etc.. This order turns out to be a useful example of an interesting linear order.

Example: Consider \{a,b,c\}\times\{a,b\} with the dictionary ordering. We get aa < ab < ba < bb < ca < cb .

In general to get a dictionary ordering on A\times B out of two linear orders A,B we do the following:

  1. Compare first elements. If they are the different, use the ordering on A.
  2. If the first coordinates are different, compare the second coordinates. If the second coordinates are different, use the ordering on B . If the second coordinates are the same, the elements you are comparing are the same (as they have the same first and second coordinates).

You can extend this process if you want and compare third, fourth or fifth coordinates if you start with three, four or five linear orders. Of course this is just saying something you already know; I don’t need to tell you how to figure out whether ‘oscillate’ comes before ‘ossifrage‘.

Example: Now my fellow sesquipedalians might be interested in the following linear order: Let D = \{*, a,b,c, \ldots, z\} where * < a < b < \ldots < z and * stands for a blank space. Now consider D^{189819} with the dictionary ordering. This will contain every English word both technical and non-technical. Granted it will also contain silly non-words like: “this*word*asserts*that*it*is*a*silly*word”.

Continue reading Reading the Dictionary