Today is Dictionary Day!

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’.)

Graminaceous: one who devours grammar?

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.