Off topic: Curious and interesting words is a dictionary that takes you on a journey

I wish I could tell you that the older and tedious I get, the more I see the appeal of dictionaries. In truth, I was born old and boring, and I’ve always loved dictionaries. I am unable to escape their gravity – I open the book to search for one thing, then something else catches my eye, and it leads to something else, and something else…

This is especially true of the dictionaries that I like the most: specialized dictionaries. Do you have a rhyming dictionary? You must have one – it’s a life changer, a friendly stranger, a ranger. Ditto a dictionary of historical terms, a dictionary of etymology. Spread out: I have a Who’s Who in ancient Egypt that is pretty well documented. And my favourite? The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words, by George Stone Saussy III.

Check that last part. All dictionaries are voluntary and secretly partisan – you can’t really have language and definitions without that stuff. But a dictionary that is the work of one person is going to be something very special. It is as much a way of being as a dictionary – it is a private guide to what a certain individual finds remarkable and worth preserving. I open its pages and it’s like getting one of those long transatlantic phone calls from the years before Skype. It’s a gas.

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