It might seem strange, but one of my pass-times as a teenager was reading dictionaries. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, for example, was an all time favourite. When doing revision for my A-levels in the library at the convent school and feeling bored or just fed up with de Lamartine’s romantic méditations poétiques, Baudelaire’s spleen and his fleurs du mal or the heaviness of Camus, I’d sink into the simple history of everyday words and sayings for refreshment.
Recently, I read an article in the Observer stating that Collins is requesting the public to submit their personal word creations for a new on-line dictionary. At first I thought, how horrible – another edition of the urban dictionary and now we’re going to have all these silly shortened versions of proper words that came about when we stopped writing full sentences and started abbreviating everything. Then I realized how exciting it actually is that we are living in an age where we can create our own vocabulary. This does not necessarily mean however, that we will understand each other better.
I recalled the first time I read Ulysses and realized how privileged I was – firstly, for being Irish as a lot of the sentences in Joyce’s stream of consciousness writing that ended mid-air, had associations with something uniquely Irish, like the first few words of an Irish lullaby or saying. He created a lot of new words too, combined languages – perhaps showing off a bit but there is a sense of fun about creating your own vocabulary. I wonder what your contribution would be if you could add a new word to the latest Concise English dictionary.
I think I’d probably have a few hidden up my proverbial sleeve and I must admit, it does give scrabble a whole new dimension.
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