old_dictionaries_590It’s National Library Week, so at least one day this week has to be


What’s your favorite, Funk & Wagnalls? Webster’s? American Standard? Oxford?

These days, more often than not, a dictionary and a Thesaurus are built right into your computer, every word, definition and synonym only an instant away.

None of us can forget our first school dictionary, though, a fat book with the thinnest pages imaginable. Almost every household had a family dictionary too, embossed and bound, with round red indentations on the edge the pages, circling 26 gold letters, one for words beginning with every letter of the alphabet, and the book weighing half as much as the average 8 year-old.

English is a language built on other languages, constantly stealing their words, so our vocabulary is forever expanding. Shakespeare had to get by with just 24 letters and about one-tenth of the current amount of English words, and he did alright. Small wonder he made up so many new words, hundreds of them still popular, while some of them are among the 47,000 “obsolete” English words.

Today there are over 450,000 active words in the English language, with more being added every year, making your “complete and unabridged” dictionary incomplete as soon as it is published. So much for the phrase “I have no words.” Nonsense, you have gobs of them.

•Suggested Activities: Looking that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

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