Thirty five years ago I bought a research tool that has helped me write for decades. At the time I was still a year or so away from owning my first PC (a Commodore VIC20 that William Shatner –aka Captain Kirk–hawked on TV) and the Internet was just a communication device for the military industrial complex. You actually had to get up off your butt and go to the library to do any in depth research. One other thing you could use was the tool that I bought so long ago.
It was the 1980 edition of The New Webster Encyclopedia Dictionary of the English Language: Including a Dictionary of Synonyms and Twelve Supplementary Reference Sections. A copy of the title page is featured above.
The dictionary started out with a very interesting forward entitled On the Origin of Words which, essentially, explained how the English language came to be. Nine hundred and seventy two pages of word definitions followed until you came to the 12 supplements mentioned in the title.
The supplements were as follows:
- Synonyms and Antonyms
- Popular Quotations
- Classical Mythology
- Foreign Words and Phrases
- Student’s and Authors Manual
- Secretaries Guide
- Business Law for Laymen
- Business and Finance
- Names and Their Meanings
- The Story of America in Pictures
- Flags of the World (in color)
- Presidents of the United States (in color)
The last president listed in section 12 is Ronald Reagan. I found out in section 9 that my first name means “The Lord is gracious, merciful” and in section 5 I found out how to edit a document using Proofreading Marks. There are too many great quotations to list here but my favorite from the Writing list in section 2 is “Look, then, into thine heart, and write!” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
At this time, I have to paraphrase another well known quote, “Time waits for no man nor great tome of knowledge”. Over the course of the decades, this book was referenced more times than I can remember especially after my son was born in 1984. It was at his side countless times while doing homework and at mine as I did my writing. Now, however, it is showing the effects of its great use and great age. The pages are torn and falling out as they fade from yellow to brown and the binding is all but gone. So I have decided to give it a new life; I have made the gut wrenching decision to recycle my old companion in hopes that its next life will be as useful as its first one was.
So good-bye my old friend, good-bye.
NOTE: I used this book one last time to look up the proper way to spell-and hyphenate-the term “good-bye” since there are many variations of it and discovered that the phrase is a shortened version “God be with you”.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary on line is located here. It even has a section for Scrabble: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Captain Kirk selling computers (as William Shatner): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UK9VU1aJvTI