“It’s a subtle difference, but that’s the whole point: English is an awfully subtle instrument. A dictionary that ignores these little shades is dangerous; in fact in those cases it’s worse than useless. It’s misleading, deflating. It divests those words of their worth and purpose.”
In recent conversation about dictionary use with one of the young poets I’m tutoring, I came back to this post about the power of a good dictionary and, in particular, Webster’s 1913 edition. True, Webster’s defines American English, and I have yet to settle on a similarly enlivening British English equivalent, but the thought of a dictionary as a living repository rather than a graveyard is an appealing one.