Looking Something Up in an Actual Book.

An interest in Buddhism, a fluctuating chronic illness and a near-fatal bout of cancer has left me with a feeling that belongings aren’t terribly important.

However, probably because I studied English at University,  I absolutely love my bonkers, hard-to-use, compact Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve been through a lot together.

The complete twenty volumes of the O.E.D are squeezed into a single book – “micrographically.” Nine pages are printed on each page and you have to use a magnifying glass to read anything. I bought the one-volume version in 1991, while I was at University, for £50.

A text search doesn’t compare really. I would miss the ceremony of looking something up. Also, an old book doesn’t charge you a year’s subscription for reading it (the online O.E.D.’s annual fee is £215 to those that can afford it.)

The light on the magnifying-glass still works after nearly three decades.

Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was published in 1755. It remained the standard text for 150 years until the OUP began publishing the Oxford English Dictionary in 1884. The first CD version of the O.E.D. was produced in 1987. The third edition of the dictionary will be published in the 2030s.

(P.S. I do a lot of my reading digitally, after all it is 2019.)


The Word Pool

“All speech acts are goal-oriented.”

That phrase lodged itself in my brain during a linguistics lecture I once attended.

Every thing we say, every word, is to achieve some kind of goal.

I’ve found this idea particularly useful when writing dialogue.

When a fictional character speaks there is a pool of alternative words they can to dip into to describe something.

Let’s say they are talking about children.

They could choose use a variety of descriptions – for instance kid, brat, squirt, rugrat, tyke, urchin or munchkin.

Each choice has a different psychological effect – brat, for instance, has negative connotations – it implies a child is badly behaved.

Of course a character can choose to speak in a responsible, measured, neutral way. But if they are angry, sad or manipulative there are plenty of charged words to scoop out of the vocabulary pool.

Each choice they make is a way of achieving that goal – and laying bare their soul.-

Word Pool Audio