Dictionary Addition

Dec 9th, 2013 | By | Category: Opportunities


I must confess to an addiction for dictionaries and even have one special bookshelf devoted entirely to my collection – not just those for the English language but foreign language and specialist dictionaries as well.   In fact, I have three English language dictionaries on my desk at all times: The Chambers Concise Dictionary (1995), Ward & Lock’s Standard Etymological Dictionary (1899) and The Waverley Modern English Dictionary (c1930) all of which give a wide overview of the way language has changed (or developed) during the 20th century.   Not to mention the various dictionaries of quotations, the Penguin Dictionary of Slang, Chambers Dictionary of Eponyms and Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms to spice up the writing.


Then there are the foreign language dictionaries for when we wish to embellish our writing with fancy foreign phrases, or pull a bit of school-boy Latin out of the hat.  Besides the French, German, Welsh and Japanese versions there is The Concise Oxford Dictionary of French Literature, A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms, A Concise Dictionary of Foreign Expressions and the invaluable Nil Desperandum.


It’s in the specialist section, however, where the serious writer finds ideas and inspiration.  Thriller novelist Sally Spedding summed this up when reviewing The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery: “ I admit that I don’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries, but this one by Mélusine Draco really is as gripping as any thriller … Every fiction or non-fiction writer should give this wonderful reference book space on their desks, not only to show what lies beneath our present day, so-called ‘civilisations,’ but also as a conduit to what may well lie beyond. … I found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead …”


Whether we’re writing fact or fiction, we still need to refer to a specialist dictionary that relates to our subject matter, even if it’s only to check a spelling or date.  We cannot write about a subject unless we are conscious of the laws and lore surrounding it and over the years I’ve collected such diverse topics as the Penguin Dictionaries of Religion, Geology, and Biology; the Oxford Dictionary of Music, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained, The Dictionary of Demons, The Dictionary of Gods & Goddesses, Devils & Demons, The Biographical Dictionary of WWII and the remarkable Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary to add depth and certainty to my writing.


These treasures are usually discovered in charity shops for a few pence and give hours of fascinating study’ like The Oxford Names Companion, A Dictionary of English Surnames and the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names that can be priceless for the novelist search for the right name for a character or fictitious location.

DMMfront cover

Fortunately, dictionary addiction is incurable – even to the point of compiling one myself.  See The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery published by Moon Books and this month’s giveaway.  First name with a mailing address sent to publisher1@compass-books.net gets the prize.

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