The other day I was looking for a thesaurus via Bing, and Bing told me about one of its searching features:
I thought this was really neat and useful, so I gave it a try. I decided to search for “aardvark,” and those of you who are Black Adder fans will get this. If you’re not a fan, click the picture of Black Adder and Samuel Johnson above to get a taste. Here’s what happens when I search define aardvark:
Not bad, a nice definition right at the top, followed by some dictionary entries and the ever-present Wikipedia article. Here’s what happens when you search simply aardvark:
You still see a nice definition from the Wikipedia at the top, but in the middle column. The main difference is that you can also see pictures of the aardvark, which I think makes the search without “define” at the beginning better. I tried the same searches on Google, and the results were very similar: “define aardvark” had a definition from Wikipedia with no pictures, while “aardvark” had a definition along with a picture.
So, I am not sure if this is such a great feature. It’s good if you just need to define a word, but I think having a visual definition is helpful too. I tried this same exercise, on both Bing and Google, for the following search terms:
- Nanotechnology: I searched for this since it doesn’t necessarily have a picture that defines it, like an aardvark does. However, I preferred the regular search, as it returned images of carbon nanotubes and the like.
- Love: an abstract concept, I found that I liked the “define” results much better; the pictures were not as relevant as for aardvark and nanotechnology
- Desayuno: this is the Spanish word for breakfast. I wanted to see if Google and Bing would give me a definition/translation into English. Neither translated it automatically, but I did see translations in the summary results.
I conclude from this that abstract concepts and some technical terms are best for searching using the “define” function. However, it wasn’t all good. I searched for “MARC” using define, and came up with “brandy made from the skins and pulp that remain when grapes and other fruit have had their juice pressed out” when what I really wanted was Machine Readable Cataloging! To be fair, this definition was the third result on the page. So, while I thought in the beginning this was an interesting feature, after trying out a few searches I will be leaving “define” out.
*Aardvark is an Afrikaans word, a language that did not exist until after Johnson’s time. For more on this, see a description of the hilarious episode of Black Adder.