Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Loss for Words

Some how, some way, I've managed to lose my favorite compact dictionary. I know it's in the house. I didn't leave it behind during the move, that's for sure, but where oh where are you little blue Webster's????

Yes, I have other dictionaries. Mostly of the big, hardcover, smash-your-toe-if-you-drop-it variety, but my battered Webster's has been with me for over 20 years. I got it before I started college, and it shows. The front cover is torn and scarred. The back cover and last few pages are loose. I keep it held together with a rubber band lest I lose the Z's.

My love for words has been with me for as long as I can remember. I'd flip through dictionaries, picking random words, and learn their meanings, their origins. I was distraught to find no classes offered in Latin, Greek, or Old English at my high school. French helped, but not enough.

In college, I had to put aside my word-lust and focus on my major. Granted, I got a little more instruction in Latin and Greek as I memorized scientific names for every freakin' duck that flew near North Dakota (and that's a lot of ducks, let me tell you), but my leisure time for delving into dictionaries was limited.

After graduating and moving into the work force then into parenthood, I still loved to read, but never got back into looking up words for their own sake. Until I started to write. I rediscovered the joys of learning a new word, even if it didn't make it into the manuscript. The thrill of clicking on my thesaurus tool or rifling through Roget's and finding a different word than the one that initially came to mind and expressed the nuances of what I meant to say.

And my little blue Webster's dictionary was always close at hand, an old friend I could rely on to show me the proper spelling of just about any word I could come up with. Oh, sure, I have spellcheck on my PC, but nothing beats the whisper of pages as I search the columns for that special word. Or the delight as my eye falls upon a new word that MUST be read before continuing. The rapid response of a click of the mouse is too fast to allow my brain to simultaneously search for words while mulling over the passages I just wrote.

I have my thesaurus here with me now, but it's not the same. Oh, I know some will say a thesaurus is more important than a dictionary to a writer. But I say that's just not so. My thesaurus is helpful, but it doesn't tell me everything I want to know about words. If we could live with one or the other, why would they bother printing both? I want--need!--my dictionary.

I'll find you, little blue Webster's! I swear I will!

8/15 UPDATE: Little blue Webster's has been found! Sadly, the Z's managed to slip the rubber band and are torn beyond use. But despite that unfortunate loss, I will now be able to concentrate on my writing, knowing my faithful Webster's is there to guide me!

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4 Comments:

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Writer & Cat said...

My mom always refused to answer questions...told us to go "look it up". So I have a knee-jerk dislike of paper dictionaries and encyclopedias, but I love the online ones :). I often say, "I don't know, let's google it!"

Jody

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

Heheh. You are a more modernized, technologically-geared woman than I, Jody. But my mom said the same thing, and now I say it to my kids :)

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Writer & Cat said...

Still no update. Haven't you figured out how to use dictionary.com yet??

Jody

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

I haven't found it yet, but I haven't gotten to the point where I'm going all electronic either. I'll let you know.

 

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