Passing time with treasure
I love dictionaries, and I have a new one: The New Oxford American Dictionary. It's much too heavy to hold in one hand and has 2,023 BIG pages covered with fine print. I keep it on a table next to my desk, so I can look up words quickly. And then linger for a while.
All right, I confess. I look up words I already know. I look up words I don't intend using. And then, when I'm done, I read the definitions of the next word on the page. And then the one after that. And then an hour has passed.
Recently I learned that there are people who don't own dictionaries, which is somewhat like not owning shoes, a condition of deprivation that should not be tolerated. Now some people argue that the dictionaries that are available to us because we have computers should be satisfactory for anybody with common sense. But "common," according to my new dictionary, can mean "showing a lack of taste and refinement; vulgar," and I agree enthusiastically with that. "Pshaw!" say I. (I have waited for a long time to use that word, which means, according to my wonderful new dictionary, "An expression of contempt or impatience," and it was first recorded in English in the late seventeenth century.) I have all sorts of tasteful and refined sense, and I state with confidence that there is nothing more satisfying than a bookcase filled with dictionaries - and one large dictionary open on a table next to one's desk. Good reading.
I'm rereading E.F. Bensen's Mapp and Lucia books at the rate of a few pages every night. Somehow it's easier to deal with the plots and domestic disasters taking place in an English village in the 1930's than it is with our present world. Even though I know how everything turns out, I still look forward to reading about Lucia's and Georgie's atrocious attempts to speak Italian, Mapp's cheating her friends at cards, the major's inflated career claims, the poor man who drowned in his soup plate, and "quaint" Irene's blunt commentaries on everything that is none of her business.
When I learned that "Tilling" is probably Rye, I went through the snapshots I took during my first trip to England and discovered that I might have photographed Georgie's Mallards Cottage, with its crooked chimney. And the street in the other picture might be the place where the characters exchanged gossip (and manipulations) each morning.
I hope you go to a bookstore or the library this week. Or both. Believe me when I tell you that books are better than TV.
(c) Jean Thesman, 2003 through 2012.