There is more than just the definition of words in dictionaries

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

Those of us who enjoy playing with words rely heavily on our dictionaries and usually have at least one within reach. On that note, you can imagine the mental upheaval that occurred recently when I read that published dictionaries are going to be history in a very short time.I grabbed one of my dictionaries and tried to ponder life without it.

The person who had researched the article mentioned that old-timers usually refer to their older dictionaries, such as the 1932 or 1946 editions of the Merriam Webster Unabridged International Dictionary.

If we don’t want to use the larger editions, we often turn to the collegiate editions. Some even get excited enough to refer to various editions of The Oxford English Dictionary, particularly when we are searching for the extended etymology of a particular word.

Some of us will probably continue to rely on our dictionaries as long as we are around. The younger generations will use the dictionaries on their computers and tell us they are far more up to date than we. Well, one of us has never claimed to be up to date on much of anything, and that is not apt to change. Most of the time, I use my dictionaries to check my spelling and then get lost while looking at other information on the page.

If the young ones rely on their computers for spelling only, they are already in trouble unless they use words composed of two syllables only. This writer gets more than a little excited when the speller on this gadget has never heard of the word I am using or ignores some words I misspell on purpose just to check on it.

I still have to reach for my dictionary when I want to be sure of the spelling. At least, I can then ask this machine to learn the word and can but hope it will do as it is told. Proofreading is still very necessary, however.

As we see the dictionaries disappearing, we will already have seen many other books no longer being published. We are already witnessing the disappearance of newspapers and magazines, as well as encyclopedias.

We are told that if we want to see any of those items, we can go on the Internet. Once again, the old-timer in me prefers to hold printed copy, to turn pages by hand, to smell the ink, and to feel the paper.

I’ll just keep my collection of dictionaries and add to it as time passes. To me those books are precious and should be treasured. They don’t even talk back if they don’t agree with my spelling. They just stand pat!