Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Look it up!

You:  "Hey Mom!  How do you spell "acrimonious"?  Your mom: "Look it up in the dictionary."

Did you ever hear this in your household?  I'll bet you did.  And I never understood that logic - if you don't know how to spell something, how is the dictionary going to help you?  :D

I was very lucky - if my sister or I heard or saw a word we didn't know the meaning of, or if we had a spelling question, we'd just ask either of our parents.  Then they'd use that word in a sentence for us.  It was a marvelous way to learn new words.

I am very lucky to have the good spelling gene.  I have never had an issue with this - it always came quite naturally to me.  But perhaps it was easy because I was one of "those kids" who actually read the dictionary for fun.  Yep, you guessed it - I didn't have a very active social life as a kid.  :D

My favorite dictionary was the Thorndike & Barnhart Junior Dictionary, 7th Edition.  It was my mom's dictionary in high school and it had all of these great little illustrations.  That was the key - pictures.  I loved that.  So imagine my delight when I saw this dictionary at our annual AAUW Book Sale, for 50 CENTS.  I instantly swooped it up!

And speaking of pictures, my awesome sister got me the Pictorial Webster's - A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities by John M. Carrera (the Chronicle Books version, not the actual leatherbound edition!).  Do you know about how he put this book together?  It's an amazing story - he actually found an 1898 Webster's at his grandparents' farmhouse and was so fascinated by the engraved illustrations he devoted nearly a decade of his life to reorganizing the collection of letterpress blocks and electroplates from where these illustrations originated, subsequently creating the book.  You can find the AMAZING video here.  I love that this artist painstakingly and lovingly crafted this book - a little slice of the 1890s in the Two Thousand-Aughts.

But what is to become of most dictionaries?  I'll admit - I hardly ever use a real dictionary anymore.  Most of the time when I need a dictionary, I'm here at my desk on my PC.  I just open a new tab in Chrome and type in the word, which almost instantly takes me to the Merriam-Websters Web site.  They've made it too darn easy to look up words this way!  (For those of you who are wondering why I don't just use Spell Check, to that I say, "HA!". I wouldn't trust that monstrosity any further than I could throw it.)

In recent years it has become quite fashionable to use dictionary pages in one's collage work.  I LOVE old dictionary pages (if you haven't guessed already!) and I collect all different languages.  You may recall that I even have some English-Esperanto pages from this post.  Here are some of the pieces I've done using old dictionary pages:

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