Today, 16 October, is Dictionary Day. The date honours Noah Webster, who created the first American dictionary in 1829. (So I probably should have spelled that ‘honors’.)
Dictionaries are a vital tool for writers and editors. And they can be heaps of fun for anybody who has the slightest interest in words. Recently I read The Word Detective by John Simpson, who was the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. It combines a memoir of his time at the dictionary – which included the move to online – with fascinating historical asides about the history of words in English. Did you know that balderdash was probably first a foamy drink with its origins in Scandinavia? Or that we have 97 words for hell?
If entering an eternal hell seems better than reading a 360-page tome on dictionaries, try celebrating dictionary day like this:
Open your favourite dictionary at random and pick a word you have never read or used before. Now vow to use it before midnight.
Mine is lacustrine: referring or relating to lakes.
If you don’t like this game, go take a lacustrine leap.