Sometime within the last week or two, dictionary.com and thesaurus.com got new looks. I use both websites quite often, though I haven’t visited them for several days. This morning, as I clicked on my desktop link to dictionary.com, I noticed a different color scheme—with a brighter intensity—right away. When I clicked on a word (I had looked up “anxiety”) to find synonyms, I saw that the color of thesaurus.com, the other half of the website pair, had changed, as well. Their respective logos, too, were different. Yet, as often as I use both of them, I could not recall precisely what was different about them; I just knew “something” had changed. My inability to recall just what the two schemes looked like before this new look bothered me. How can it be that I could not recall details about something I view with some regularity? My powers of observation or, at least, my powers of remembering my observations, are low.

My curiosity grabbed me by the collar and forced me to explore what I had failed to remember. It has been years, literally, since I made us of the internet’s Wayback Machine, but I remembered it existed. I had to depend on a Google search to lead me to archive.org, where a quick search revealed examples of the “old” look of both websites.

Having piqued my interest in remembering the appearance of some other websites, the Wayback Machine took me to the website of Challenge Management, the company we operated until we decided to retire. And I looked at various versions of the website of my church. Before I got thoroughly lost in old websites, I came to my senses. While I am glad to have the resources of the Wayback Machine, looking back at what has been replaced has only so much value and no more. Peering back at the “old versions” of every website I have ever visited would be an enormous waste of time and energy. And, as I learned this morning, the Wayback Machine has the capacity of becoming an enormously distracting attention-grabber. I do not even clearly recall why I looked up the definition of “anxiety.”

The Wayback Machine cannot take a snapshot of my thoughts at any given time; that’s what my writing does, but not if I allow myself to get sidetracked by wild goose chases. I wonder about the etymology of the phrase, “wild goose chase.” I think I shall see what I can find. Ah, wouldn’t you know it? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though its earlier origin is unclear. And that little exploration revealed something else about “goose,” the meaning associated with “jab in the rear” and a bevy of related sexual slang.

I could drift through the history of language for hours if I allowed myself the freedom to do it. Instead, I’ll have breakfast and a shower and make my way to my morning “Window Talk,” the last one of this week.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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