Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Little Friend - the Dictionary

One of the first things aspiring writers are told is to invest in a high quality dictionary, and a large hardcover dictionary is best. When I was a reporter and a broke bachelor, I tried using a paperback dictionary, but it would disappoint me from time to time, so eventually I gave in and spent the extra money for the large, hardback. The one in this picture is one a bought a few years later at the local Barnes & Noble and became the family "go to" dictionary for many years. It's lasted for years, and despite its frequent use has remained in good condition.

Listening to a radio host the other day, she mentioned that back when she read more often, she used to keep a hardcover dictionary on her nightstand. She had bought it second-hand, and after years of use it was falling apart and she was forced to replace it. She contributed her good vocabulary and good spelling skills directly to that cherished book. Her story reminded me that my dictionary is now at least ten years old and needs replacement, especially since there are some new terms and phrases that are not in it. For instance, there is no entry for any form of social media. To my dictionary, a tweet is only something a bird does.

That got me thinking about some of the other dictionaries I have next to it on the shelf, and I thought it'd be cool to post a picture of them as well. Despite some of the good conditions of the books, all are well used and well loved.

Yes, the thesaurus is a paperback, and I should have spent money on the hardcover, but I still haven't gotten around to it yet. The Latin dictionary is paperback as well, but I only use it when I do a little root-word searches. The pocket Spanish dictionary belongs to The Boss, and From Absurd to Zeitgeist is a Writer's Digest book of literary terms.

That orange German dictionary is pretty much the best one you can buy. It only comes in a paperback version, but every German instructor I've ever had declares that dictionary plus the 501 German Verbs books are the best and most useful books any student of the language can reasonably purchase. It's hard to believe I carried those two books around in a backpack for four semesters and they stayed in such good condition.

The Rhyming Dictionary I bought because many poets both past and present recommend it, but believe it or not, a rhyming dictionary in general is a little harder to use than you'd think. Of all the dictionaries I own, that one probably gets used the least. Finding a word to rhyme with a particular word is easy, but is it the right word for the poem? Many times the answer is no.

By their very nature, owning and using these books will make you a better reader and writer, as long as you actually use them. So don't be skittish about investing a few extra bucks to get good quality ones. You won't regret it.

Until Next Time...
Referencely Yours,


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