My dictionary: wonderful and, lately, sadly underused

Tonight I was prompted to look something up in the dictionary. Now, my dictionary used to be my best friend, being the writer and English major that I am. No, not literally my best friend… oh, you know what I mean! My trusty old MW Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, was a gift to me for Christmas 1995 from my father. I even made note of that on the first page where it says “Presented to _____ By _____ Date_____” so I would always remember. That dictionary lasted me ten good years. I got it when I was thirteen and still writing “novels” that would be a page or so in length before I decided I would have to finish at a later date, but never did. It lasted through my high school days of poetry, my college days of papers and short stories. But ten years after I got it, I realized it was about dead from use. The hardcover’s binding was no longer tight, and I decided it was high time for an update. I took my dad to the bookstore 1/27/06 and in honor of the event, he paid for my new treasure, a brand new MW Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Laminated Cover) (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Laminated))
Despite that purchase, in recent years I’ve gravitated toward the excellent for both dictionary and thesaurus purposes. But tonight I had something I needed to look up in an actual book because it was a question of, “what’s the only word in the English language that starts with PW?” — which was prefaced with the fact that it’s a riddle, but I wondered if such a word exists; my search resulted in abbreviations such as “pwr” for “power” as well as the seismic term “P-wave.”*

So I found my dictionary on the shelf (but not until after initially overlooking it, prompting my sudden at-the-time-hilarious-but-probably-not-so-much-now outburst of, “what, no dics?” …no, I’ve never before nicknamed my dictionary but I think that might stick… because I still find that hilarious… because my sense of humor really is that dumb sometimes) and as I was turning the pages to get to “pw-” (page 10113, incidentally) I was stopped by page 995… A chart of Proofreaders’ Marks?! Well I certainly need to keep that for future reference. After getting to page 1013, I went back to 995 and used my all-in-one printer/copier/scanner to make a copy of that page to put with my writing stuff for NaNoEdMo next month.

Before I go on, some background info is needed. I was thrilled to get my very first dictionary. No, I wasn’t upset that it wasn’t a fiction book, a sweater, or nail polish. I have always loved words, but the dictionary has so much more than definitions. There are sections for biographical and geographical entries in the back. There are pronounciation notes, Signs and Symbols lists in tons of categories from Astronomy to Weather, plus “A Handbook of Style” with rules for Punctuation, Capitals and Italics, Documentation of Sources (the Eleventh Edition of course upgrades this to include electronic sources), Forms of Address… I almost liked the end of the dictionary more than the middle when I was little, even before I got my own, because it was all fascinating new information for me. I mean, it’s still really cool — did you know that it’s proper to address a letter to a Bishop to “Your Excellency,” but to a Cardinal is “Your Eminence”? But don’t get me wrong, the middle is great too with the pictures and charts near relevent words. Look up “alphabet” in a dictionary and you’ll find a table with English, Greek, and more. There’s also a table for “metric system” and “geologic time” and a ship’s “bells.” So amazing.

So when I saw page 995 I said aloud, to myself, “See? Another reason my dictionary is wonderful and underused.” I made a copy of that page and the way I put the book down afterwards it looked weird, and when I went to fix it I saw the CD in the still-unopened plastic sleeve that’s attached to the inside of the back cover and said it again. I remembered seeing that when I got the dictionary, and promptly forgot to install it. So if you will excuse me, I’m going to go see if the Win-XP compatible disc will install on my Vista machine. And then I’m going to spend some quality time getting reacquainted with an old friend.

*Okay, nevermind. It really was a joke, the answer being “pwned.” Yeah, that word definitely hasn’t reached TPTB at MW… However it has re-sparked my love for dics, so my search was not in vain. 😉

One thought on “My dictionary: wonderful and, lately, sadly underused

  1. I am so happy that you love dics. So happy that in fact, that it astounds me. I prefer dictionaries because I always loved the tiny pictures that were interspersed randomly throughout the book, something which I have yet to find on

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