The Guilty Party

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Reference to That...........

Two days ago I received the most tempting bit of mail. Of course everyday mailboxes all over the civilized world (and yes, I realize this is not a particularly accurate description, but it does convey my meaning and so shall stand) have thrust into them all manner of solicitations from all sorts of organizations, businesses and scams. Envelopes heavy with coupons from every sort of business from dry cleaners to Chinese restaurants to auto repair shops to doctors specializing in the treatment of hemorrhoids arrive almost daily. This time of year especially is guaranteed to bring catalogs by the cartload. Hammacher Schlemmer (that triggered the spellcheck), Land's End, Current, L.L. Bean, Levengers, Oriental Trading Company and one whose name I don't recall but which trumpeted on its cover Nearly Everything $14.99 or Under are just few of these periodicals of prospective commerce that have clogged our tiny mailbox in the past week. All of them I consigned to the recycle bin with nary a flinch, not one hint of hestitation.

But one modest envelope I set aside. I couldn't help myself. It arrived an Thursday and I set it aside unopened until I had the time to read it's contents thoroughly, carefully, leisurely. That precious time was this afternoon. I have read the four page brochure and the two page insert twice each. More than twice I have studied the separate order form, knowing full well I will not be utilizing it. I won't purchase this product for myself nor will I be dropping hints to my loved ones that this would be a terrific idea for under the Christmas tree this year. I would dearly love to possess it, but holy Ned in the noontime, eight hundred and ninety-five dollars plus thirty-four dollars shipping & handling is just a bit more than I think I'll ever be prepared to pay for a dictionary. Even if it is the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED as it is known amongst those who love the English language, its history, its complexity, its flexibility and its enormous range. Even though I realize the savings over the regular three thousand dollar price tag is substantial indeed. And even though my purchase would include a six month subscription to OED online.

It isn't that I don't like reference books. I love them. My Roget's Pocket Thesaurus has been with me for decades and it still gets a good workout. I have two copies of Strunk and White's Elements of Style so at least one is almost always easy to find. The Transitive Vampire and The Well Tempered Sentence, both by Karen Elizabeth Gordon haved saved me countless time. A favorite "what shall I read now?" solution is the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, as is the The New York Public Library Desk Reference. The Facts on File Dictionary of Classical, Biblical, & Literary Allusions by Lass, Kiremidjian and Goldstein has provided me with hours of perusing pleasure and answered many a question prompted by reading books written by the unashamedly erudite. The bookshelf that sits at the back of my desk's footwell (or whatever is the official name for the space where ones legs and feet go under a desk, I guess I'll have to look that up) is crammed with reference books. I can't hardly think of a better way to while away a few minutes or an entire afternoon than immersing myself in word lore.

And what better or more vast ocean to plunge into for such purposes than the OED where, according to the elegant and understated brochure: "Accompanying each definition is a chronologically-arrange group of quotations that illustrate the evolution of meaning from the word's first usage and show the contexts in which it has been used. ...authors as disparate as Geoffrey Chaucer and Erica Jong, William Shakespeare and Raymond Chandler, Charles Darwin and John le Carre. In all, nearly 2.5 million quotations--illustrating over half-a-million words--can be found in the OED."

It sure sounds like a good time to me. But it is not to be. Not at eight hundred and ninety-five dollars plus shipping and handling.

But I would sure love to. You know I would.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.


Timberati said...

Gee, you get a higher class of junk mail than we get.

Larry said...

Oddly, about 35 years ago the Book-of-the-Month club offered the Compact OED for free with a new membership. It was not an abridged version but the complete OED, but in oversized volumes that had several pages reduced in size per page. It came with a magnifying glass to read it. I joined the club to get the book and was very pleased. But it is now outdated and normal collegiate dictionaries are more useful unless you are writing historical material.

larry orr

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.