30 August 2010

Reliable References

A few months ago I read a book called Reading the OED by Ammon Shea and found myself seriously enjoying the read. Shea spent one year reading through the whole OED, chronicling his adventure in this novel. Each chapter is dedicated to a letter of the alphabet. He begins each chapter with a little anecdote dealing with how he began his obsession with dictionaries (he owns thousands) to the horrible headaches he got each day as he read through all 21,000-plus pages. After each anecdote he lists his favorite words beginning with the designated letter of the alphabet and random connections he has to them (different dictionaries he's seen them in, varying definitions, etc).

To many this book would be a total bore - reading about someone reading the OED?! Sounds crazy to someone who doesn't have a love for the English language. I don't ever see myself reading page 1 to page 21,730 of the OED, but I can, honestly, see the appeal. Since I read this book I have bought myself 3 new dictionaries/thesauruses (i) and constantly look-up words I do not know. You can never have too many reference books, whether they be your run-of-the-mill dictionary to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. I know that all of this can be found online (I am now the proud owner of a bouncing, baby Nook), but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats having a hard copy on hand.

I hope to one day have a room in my home that I can call my library, filled with leather-bound tomes, ratty classics, and shelves of reference books. If you see me when I'm 50 and I do not own the OED, then, please, slap me then split the cost of it with friends as a birthday gift for yours truly. You may want to find many, many friends to split it with considering it is over $1,000. And preferably find a nicely bound set. Thanks, friends.

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