For the Love of Dictionaries

With so many dictionary resources readily available on-line, it’s easy to believe a hard copy isn’t necessary anymore. It’s my firm belief every home should have at least one realio-trulio paper dictionary readily available.

My love of dictionaries began as a child when I’d spend hours poring through the pages of my grandmother’s eight inches thick Webster’s New International Dictionary (of the English Language).

The ancient leather bound book with its India skin paper had leather alphabet tabs cut in the pages. The illustrations were detailed and the maps gorgeous. There were diagrams, charts, and thousands of words.

It was a fertile resource for a blossoming logophile or, as I prefer to call myself – wordsmith.

I love print dictionaries because all sorts of wonderful magical stuff can happen when you read a dictionary.

You discover a word’s origin and its root. Both can give deeper understanding of the word’s meaning. The lists of synonyms and antonyms given with the meaning provide possibilities for rewriting or a totally new idea.

True, you can get all that in a nano second on-line. But do you scroll down to discover all that? Probably not.

Even if you do, you miss all those other words your finger glides over as it scrolls down the printed page. Words that you might never have seen.

You’d miss things like how “patina” comes after “patient” in the dictionary. When you consider patient describes how to endure time, and patina describes time’s residue, that’s thought-provoking. An on-line dictionary won’t help you discover unique things like that.

Spelling can be a problem no matter what type of dictionary you use. I’m a terrible speller who stumps spell checker 90% of the time. That’s why I have 20,000 WORDS by Louis A. Leslie, a word list of commonly misspelled words. Side-by-side with my dictionary, this little jewel gets me through my writing day.

I love one other dictionary: The King’s English Dictionary. My British antiques business partner gave me a copy when his British accent and my Texas drawl tended to muddle discussions. Further complicating our chats about what to purchase for the shop, the English and American definitions frequently didn’t match. The King’s English Dictionary saved us many times over.

While you may never love dictionaries as I do, I still recommend you have a gigantic paper dictionary handy. You never know what you might learn.

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One Comment on “For the Love of Dictionaries

  1. This was so well said and went straight to my heart. My own dictionary is falling apart. It’s been through so much with me. But like an old friend, I can’t throw it away just because there is something new out there.

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