I’m in love with my dictionary

“The best stories, when it’s all summed up, are about love. Stories of cat burglars, for example, or going over the corn production target can be gripping…but love is better. C is what Robert Dessaix says, sharing his point of view at the Ubud festival in 2017, the discourse now rooted in Abracadabra (Brio Books, 2022), a collection of the author’s words over the years.

The love riff continues for a few more paragraphs, until the twist. As a reader, I went from relaxed to captivated. Partner in crime. Because it was not a question of a simple test but of a confession, as the speaker admits: “It is time, after all these years, to speak frankly: I love you.

Each visit to the dictionary is a plunge into serendipity, a mysterious visit from the English.

Or I love youin Robert’s case, because his heart belongs to the Collins Robert Unabridged French-English Dictionary English-French. I felt a sting of recognition. A jolt. In one remark, I had found a kindred spirit who could see me.

“What delights you have offered,” adds Desessaix, “and with what generosity – in every season. In love, in heartbreak, in flirtation, in gratitude, in friendship… you have rarely left me. Sometimes I just sit with you and feast on your interior!”

Call me wanton, but my dictionaries have been plural over the years, from one Bedrooms in my Scrabble– teens crazy at a chewing gum macquarie on Letters and numbersplus a dozen intermediate links.

Abracadabra by Robert Desaix.

Abracadabra by Robert Desaix.Credit:Brio Books

Such promiscuity contrasts with Desaix’s loyalty. “Yes, I’m still loyal to you, honey, in my own way. I never visit Google Translate, for example. No, really; never. Well, almost never. Just once in a while, maybe. Late at night , when I’m tired and sensitive. Boys will be boys. A quick Google before bed – what can be the harm in that?”

My current favorite is Collins English Dictionary (13th Edition)the bible chosen to split the hair in four Celebrity letters and numbers, back this Monday at 7:30 p.m. on SBS. The dictionary has earned its place thanks to its free database, which means any problem can be sorted out on the couch without the firewall, be it that Afrikaans peach liquor (mampoer) or slang lost of flimp: “stealing by means of a partner harassing or pushing the victim while their accomplice steals the goods”.

Each visit to the dictionary is a plunge into serendipity, a mysterious visit from the English. Equally enamored, Dessaix traces the heart-brain effect of tripping up his bilingual M-pages. “Malabar I am in India, Malachi I am an Old Testament prophet, sick and sick I’m sick, discolored, sick, sick, clumsiness I am clumsy, tactless, indelicate… I have multiplied, I am several, I am my own honeycomb.

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