What manner of 19th century public domain dicitonaries are packaged with 21st century software? For Montogomery Burns, these word lists would be just spifflicastic, but maybe not for the average citizen.

I just installed Thunderbird 1.5RC1, keen to check out the spell-check. Neither “blog” and “podcast” were recognised as valid words, despite one of the other new features being RSS and podcasting support! Not pointing the finger at Thunderbird, since most dictionaries in usr/dict and ispell and Office(s) seem to be equally ancient.

Many web-related terms turn out to be unsupported:

  • blog.
  • rss.
  • podcast.
  • www.
  • weblog.

  • mozilla.
  • thunderbird.
  • firefox.
  • netscape.

  • perl.
  • usenet.
  • cgi.
  • http.
  • dotcom.

  • flickr.
  • technorati.
  • google.
  • ipod.

Further curious (bordering on obsessive), I then tried OED’s top ten new entries for 2001, specifically those with exactly one term. All but one of these fails too.

  • doh.
  • balti.
  • Doh!
  • Ladette
  • Mullet (Passes spell-check.)
  • Alcopop

Yep, forget about quoting the Simpsons and partying with Red Bull. At the end of the day, it’s the Mullet that commands your respect.

I’m sure Google Labs could run some algorithm against the web to produce a more useful spell checker. It would obviously find many new words that should be added, but furthermore, it would find obscure words that should be removed. And it could probably go a lot further too, and build a very clever grammar-checking algorithm. But for now, there’s plenty of mileage to be gained from a simple manual list.