Friday, June 03, 2011


I have a soft spot, not to mention a substantial section of my office library, devoted to dictionaries.

I am the sort of person that thinks giving a good dictionary as a wedding or birthday gift is a good idea. I know this skews my personality firmly towards "nerd," but I'm okay with that.

The photo above isn't showing all of them. I have my beloved COD and a whomping huge old copy of The Concise English Dictionary right beside my desk, ready to access at all times. I have two dictionaries for children, which helps at the magazine when I am trying to simply explain terms for young people. They are also great for phonetics.

I use the science dictionaries all the time, and the etymology dictionary, too. I picked up the Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms in university; it's essential reading for any biologist, especially students trying to remember all those phyla. If you understand what echinoderm breaks down to, it's much easier to file it away forever.

Some are just quirky. Gould's Pocket Pronouncing Medical Dictionary? Because you never know when you need to define edeoptosis (a prolapse of the genitals). Wet Coast Words? Because nothing says British Columbian by understanding the origin of skookum. (And nothing says Islander, than using "up island.")

You never know where these dictionaries will lead. The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics, helped me craft this.

When I troll the second-hand stores, I am always looking out for unusual dictionaries. I picked up four new ones this past week.

I'm not sure quite why I got this one, but it did come in handy as I was reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes, the latest choice of our book club, with its netsuke, vitrines, and bibelots. (It's a great read, by the way.)

And this find was perfect because I've decided that I am going to try and wade through The Bible. My understanding of religion is, frankly, pathetic, and I'm going to try and rectify that over the next while. A conversion is not imminent, however. This dictionary was immediately useful as I tried to figure out what an "unclean animal" was and why only one male and one female of the unclean animals were allowed on the ark, while seven of each "clean" animal were permitted passage.

I don't see any immediate use for this, but for $2 it can take up space on the shelf for awhile.

And then I found this little gem.

I couldn't resist. It is totally falling apart and someone has attempted to stitch the linen covers together. Plus it is the size of about 3 1/2 matchboxes and cost me a loonie.

So what is your favourite dictionary?

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