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Saturday, 8 September 2007

Twenty-seven dictionaries

I’ve always known that I owned a lot of dictionaries but until today I’ve never actually sat down and counted them. In total I have 27 including the 2 thesauri and my wife has another dozen of her own. That’s a lot of dictionaries.

Neither my father nor my mother to the best of my knowledge ever owned or even read a novel. My mother in the years leading up to her death would pick up the odd woman’s magazine from a second-hand shop but even those she only skimmed. My father bought books by mail order, self-help books mainly but we also ended up with four sets of encyclopaedias, The New Universal Dictionary and Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder and I owe a great deal to both of these two excellent books which I sat and read like novels. It puzzles me that it took so many years for it to dawn on me that I was a writer; words always fascinated me. I remember seeing a copy of the complete Oxford English Dictionary at school (all twenty volumes of it) once locked away where no one would ever use it and I thought then it was such a waste.

In the eighties I moved out and needed to start building my own reference library. I began with Collins English Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases though I always missed the Hartrampf’s. I finally found a decent copy in a second-hand shop in the west end of Glasgow a couple of years ago.

The sad thing of course is how little I ever need to consult these books nowadays but I couldn’t bare to part with them or box them up.


The New Universal Dictionary (Psychology Publishing Co. Ltd., 1955)

Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder (Psychology Publishing Co. Ltd., 1963)


Collins Gem Crossword Puzzle Solver (Collins)

Collins Gem French Dictionary (Collins)

Collins Gem German Dictionary (Collins)


Collins English Dictionary (Collins, 1980)

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Longman, 1981)

A Dictionary of Euphemisms (Hamish Hamilton, 1983)

The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations (Penguin, 1980)

The Penguin Dictionary of Proverbs (Penguin, 1983)

Longman Dictionary of English Idioms (Longman, 1979)


Home Study Dictionary (Peal Press, no date)

Cassell’s French Dictionary (Cassell & Co, 1928)

The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (Fontana, 1986)

The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (Oxford University Press, 1992)

Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (Parragon, 1991)

Walker’s Rhyming Dictionary (George Routledge & Sons, 1775)

The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words (Penguin, 1984)

1000 Most Challenging Words (Fact on File Publications, 1987)

The Cynic’s Dictionary (Corgi, 1983)

The Dictionary of Misinformation (Futura, 1985)

The Rude Dictionary (Scholastic Children’s Books, 1992)


The Enlarged Devil’s Dictionary (Penguin Modern Classics, 1967)

The Abridged edition of the New Dictionary of American Slang (Harper Collins, 1987)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 1995)

The Newbury House Dictionary of American English (Monroe Allen, 2000)

A Dictionary of Hiberno-English (Gill & MacMillan, 1999)


zenartnothing said...

In this and another blog you mention how easy it is to neglect the printed resources for the ease of looking words and phrases up online. Then there's the aspect of just who are you going to impress with those high-dollar words? In fact, we are more apt to find a simpler, easy to spell alternative. If we risk stepping outside of common vernacular we may lose the reader's understanding. I too am fascinated with words and am jealous of your resources, even if they are more useful as entertainment for ourselves rather than being erudite. It would be nice if we were all more inclined to explore meanings and origins. I recently looked up "manifest" and discovered that in many cases I was misusing it.

Jim Murdoch said...

There are times, zenartnothing, when the fun comes from finding just the right word, e.g. in my first novel I use the expression "jactitating bosom" and I know that 99% of my readers won't know what "jactitating" means but they'll all get the idea plus it contains the word "tit" adding to the humour.

Too many big words confuse but the occasional use of the right one can really hit the nail on the head.

zenartnothing said...

Statistically analogous to the periodic redundant commission of logorrhea, comprehension is contraindicated. However, experiential musing deriving from an authoritarian has served to illuminate a loci of axiomatic wisdom, thus the commensurate etude is made manifest.

Jim Murdoch said...

Zenartnothing, what are you havering about?

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