Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Joy of Dictionaries

One day my friend the blonde will let me take pictures of her collection of dictionaries - I have never, even in a university library, seen so many or on so many different subjects. So far she's resisted my attempts to sneak in with a camera on the grounds that her house isn't tidy enough (tidier by far than mine though) but one day... My own collection of dictionaries and reference books is a small affair by any standards never mind hers but I still like to have books to hand.

True enough the internet is a wondrous and useful thing but sometimes it's hard to find what you want amongst all the other stuff on there, though more often my problem is that I only find what I want and not so much of the incidental stuff along the way (I know this isn't the usual problem - maybe it's my age). The great thing about something like 'The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations' is that I can browse in it for hours - or minutes as time allows. I spent a lot of Christmas and Boxing day flipping through my new copy and would keep it by my bed if I thought it wouldn't keep me awake for hours. It's the sheer variety of stuff in there (and the pretty blue and yellow ribbons - my old university colours which feels like a happy coincidence). I briefly entertained myself texting the blonde Goethe quotes in German which she understands, I don't though so when she replied in kind I came unstuck. I found some cracking stuff about sailing which I think I'll soon have cause to repeat, and swore yet again that I should actually read Dorothy Parker and not just her quotes.

It's not even as if I'm a crossword aficionado or need this sort of thing for essays or the like, I simply find myself really enjoying time in the company of a book like this. I look at it and it seems full of promise and possibility; sentences that could lead to entirely unexpected and new (to me) writers - because clearly I need more books in my life - oh yes, the dictionary is my favourite present of Christmas (excluding the half a kitchen aid which wasn't for my birthday).  


  1. I am now even more covetous of this than I was when you first mentioned it. There is something magnificently civilised about having a home reference library but, though I love the idea, mine currently consists of mostly French and German language dictionaries. Useful perhaps but not much fun to pull down and read through on a whim!

  2. You do inspire me. I was put off from reading for pleasure in year 2 of grammar school...being forced to read Captain Hornblower and his adventures was the problem.

    Time I got over it...and your blog is therapy!


  3. I remember reading, or boring family, with my grandparents' dictionary of quotations as a teenager. Thankfully I was given my own at 18. It's been a while since I looked at it but I really must. Keep enjoying yours.

  4. Claire - it does sound magnificently civilised doesn't it. My reference books are mostly Art History ones from university days but I do love a good dictionary of quotations - perfect for reading on a whim.

    James and Helen - that's really kind of you to say. I read mostly for escape and it does indeed give me a great deal of pleasure.

    Joan Hunter Dunn - :)

  5. I love my Oxford DOQ & stil look there first if there's a quote I want to identify before I succumb to Google. It's the serendipitous browsing that I love. One quote leads to another.