Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost
When I first met my Best Beloved, he'd just spent a large sum of money buying a dictionary. All 20 volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, to be precise. They take up two full shelves of our home office bookcase, and look fantastic. And that's what they do most of the time, sit there and look fantastic. Of course, when Bernice Balconey drops in for a glass or three of wine and she and he start haggling over obscure points of grammar and the difference between 'miniscule' and 'minuscule' (thank you, Jonathon and Pav), the M volume is run for, and lovingly stroked as it is gazed at. I, on the other hand, am usually running for a nice novel to sink into as they sink deeper into Baloney.
I, too, have a beloved dictionary, but it is only the size of a small house brick, a little hardback Pocket Oxford Dictionary that I've carted through the years, through endless house moves and seemingly unceasing study. It has my name written in the front in my high-school hand. It's always within arms reach if I'm working at home, and it's married to my equally battered paperback Roget's Thesaurus.
So tell me, do you still use a hard-copy dictionary? Or do you own the CD-roms of some reputable dictionary publishing house? Or are you a subscriber to something similar? Or do you just use the plethora of free on-line dictionaries? Or do you just rely on the spell-checker built into whichever program you're using at the time? Or do you not care at all, as long as ur grlfrd ns wt ur tlkg abt?
When I'm away from my married couple, I'll go on-line for my spelling requirements, but I'm blessed with an ability to sense if something's not spelled correctly, probably because I read a lot. In fact, most of the times I misspell things, it's because I haven't taken the time to properly re-read whatever I've written. Like blog posts/comments: dash them down, and hit send. Then say 'Doh'!
The sense of nostalgia I feel about printed dictionaries is not a sense of their impending obsolescence (to the contrary! They are becoming more collectible with every on-line year), but about the way looking through a dictionary leads you to other words, and other worlds.
Many are the times I've gone to look up a word, and become distracted by other words near by, and before I know it, I'm turning the page, or writing down something that ends up being something quite different after a bit of thinking, like a page of an artist's book.
This is akin to the way library catalogues are now virtual, and looking up a book tends to take you straight to that book, and nowhere else. My university library catalogue has a function that shows you the books on either side of the one you're seeking, but it's just not the same as standing at the shelf, running your finger along the other book spines, and happening upon the perfect book that you never knew existed.
You can still do this, of course, by stopping occasionally as you walk through the library shelves, rather than just grabbing the book you need and running out again. You can also go to bed and browse through the dictionary to learn a new word every day, as well. I just thought I'd point that out, in case anyone has forgotten. But I know I'm writing this for an audience of dictionary lovers, am I not? SHARE.
Before I stop, here's a short list of weird and wonderful dictionary-type thingies in no particular order:
The Visual Dictionary
A dictionary of one-letter words
The Superhero Dictionary
The Apostrophe Protection Society
sex-lexis, the dictionary of sexual terms
a very long list of on-line dictionaries
[cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]