Why I Rove Through Dictionaries

Just a few dictionaries
Just a few of the “crew.”

When I tell people I own lots of dictionaries (a number recently swelled by a trip to the thrift store), they give me The Look.

Oh, you know The Look, where the eyes go askance and seem to say, “She’s just too weird to look at directly, but I can’t drag my eyes totally away.”

I mean, who in her right mind collects dictionaries? In my life, they’re like those hairpins that cloud around the witch in that old Bugs Bunny cartoon. I have at least one in every room. (Not the bathrooms; I’m not that odd! Although…)

In an age that provides instant access to words and their meanings (and just about anything else), why would I clutter my life with books that contain just words?

See, that’s what people just don’t understand. A dictionary is not “just words.” Each holds such a wealth of information that it makes me almost giddy. You can find out all about a word from a good dictionary – where it comes from, how it’s pronounced, what its job is, and how it can transform itself.

I’ll often just wander through a volume looking at different words. This usually happens when I need to look up a word during a task I’d rather avoid. I end up going from one interesting entry to another pursuing words that catch my eye. This can last hours.

That’s one reason I have physical books instead of going up on an internet site. In a book, I can thumb through pages and have words jump out at me that I just have to check out.

Am I a closet lexicographer? Or am I just a logophile — or is that lexicomane or lexophile? I’ll have to go look them up.


Weekend Wrinkle: Speling – I Mean “Spelling” – Troubles

I’m lucky. I was trained to be a good speller since I was a child. I’d ask my mother how to spell something, and she’d direct me to a dictionary.

Reading – a lot – also helps. Words are symbol combinations. Spelling is primarily recognizing and using the correct symbol combinations.

We want to spell well to keep our writing clear. Creative spelling makes things difficult for the reader, something we always try to avoid, right?

Now, I still have problems spelling lots of words: truly and judgment among them. So what do we do to keep it correct?

Spell checkers help, especially with the old “typing so fast I transpose letters” problem. However, the big limit to these is synonyms. Spell checkers can’t catch words spelled correctly but used incorrectly.

I keep a dictionary nearby, which also helps. If something doesn’t look quite right, I look it up. One trick I learned recently is to write the correct spelling of my “demons” on a list nearby so I don’t have to look them up all the time. (There are just some words that, for whatever reason, I will never get right.)

If you have trouble spelling, it’s a good idea to have someone else look over your writing. Fresh eyes catch embarrassing mistakes.

How do you deal with your spelling struggles?