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Friday, 27 August 2010

With Due Reference

I absolutely love my reference books. Yes they are hefty tomes; heavy and awkward, but using them is like dipping into a wonderful Ice Cream Sundae with many layers, textures and flavours. Each word sending me on a journey to discover its many and varied meanings.

I recall a number of my course contemporaries, from all over the UK, slopping bucket loads of muck on the idea that a writer would want to own, much less use a proper, published dictionary, favouring Internet searches instead. These same people apparently wanted to be the future authors of tomorrow. Where was their love of words and books?

The Chambers DictionaryWhen the O.U. recommended the Chambers Dictionary for our Creative Writing course I wondered why this particular lexicon? No-one on the forums had a clue, it seemed. Maybe someone out there in cyberspace knows?

I’ve been the proud owner of a 1988 Chambers since 1988. (If you looked up the word Éclair it said: ‘a long cake of short duration’. However, more recent editions have revised this description). Recently I looked up the word ‘arcane’ in it, (my mother’s rule of thumb to confirm if a dictionary is good) but the word wasn’t there! I was crestfallen. I now have an Oxford Dictionary of English which I love and which does have the word arcane:
Oxford Dictionary of English


Of course there’s the Computer Thesaurus, which is very useful. I really don’t deny it, but isn’t it bland and limited? For example:

The definition of Piqued in synonym checker comes up as:
So where I wondered was the definition relating to a person’s interest being aroused? Huh?

Also, Beware Spellchecker, it's littered with mistakes.

I wonder,what’s your favourite dictionary tipple?

2 comments:

  1. OED for me to, Madeleine. I also use Elements of Style, a descriptive word finder, and a reverse dictionary. The Word Thesaurus is great as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Ellie
    I've not heard of Elements of Style. I shall investigate that one, thanks
    Madeleine

    ReplyDelete

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