Friday, January 8, 2016

Remembering Dad #5: The Dictionary Guy

When my mother once commented, "Your dad is the only person I know who reads the dictionary for fun," she was simply stating a fact. Dad liked studying the words in the dictionary. He used a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, fifth edition.




I remember seeing him sitting at the dining room table paging through the book and finding words of interest to him. He liked knowing not only the word meanings, but also their parts of speech, pronunciation, and etymology. He really did!!!



The edges of the dictionary pages were gilded with gold leaf, which is now well-worn. There are thumb indentations for finding the alphabetical sections from A to Z easily. The few illustrations are are black and white line drawings.



On the inside of the back cover dad inscribed the following information: "Book Shop - Kimball S of Lawrence, Chgo; 7/15/44; $5.50"



The back of the dictionary has several appendices. One of them, "Pronouncing Vocabulary of Common English Christian Names," stirred my interest several months ago, when I discovered that Dad had carefully placed an X next to about twenty names of women. It was exciting to think that my dad may have consulted these pages to find a name for me. In fact, the name Ruth did have an X next to it. Some of the others that were under consideration, I presume, were Alice, Amanda, Angela, Anita, Antoinette, Carmen, Caroline, Christabel, Clara, Estella, Frances, Hester, Hildegarde, Isabel, Leslie, Madeline, Monica, Patricia,Rita, Ursula, Veronica, and Yvonne. There are some lovely names in this list, but honestly, I'm glad my name isn't Christabel, Hester or Hildegarde----yikes!



Dad wanted to instill in me a love for words, and I think both he and my mother did that. I felt like I had come of age when I received a dictionary instead of a toy for my 7th birthday. It was the biggest book I had ever had up to then. The cover was red and the title was Thorndike-Barnhart Junior Dictionary, written in white and yellow letters. The first word I found was "embarrassment," a word totally unfamiliar to me. So that was a good beginning to following in my dad's footsteps of taking an interest in words, what they mean, and even how to spell them. I did go around challenging my second-grade friends to see if they knew my new word and could spell it.



I have Dad's dictionary on the shelf above my computer along with other reference books. I use it often. I consider it a relic of my dad.



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