Mrs. Noah Webster

I just bought two more dictionaries today while out rummaging.

Though I look up words a lot the old fashioned way instead of on the computer, I didn’t actually need more dictionaries. I just like them.

One of my “new” old dictionaries is “The American Vest Pocket Dictionary.” It’s a cute little bundle of words which makes me wish for a vest with a pocket for carrying it about. It is in very good condition and I just like holding it.

The other is “The new Modern English Illustrated Dictionary Latest Edition. Its copyright is 1913 and it shows the ravages of much use. But I like that it is old and that many people turned to it time again when they needed to know how to spellĀ  “diversification” or “isthmus.”

Best of all, it has illustrations of cattle, dogs, horses and coats of arms of the states of the American Union. (Wisconsin’s coat of arms is pretty boring.)

From my earliest days, I have revered dictionaries. It seemed to me that the world was waiting for me there.

Even in eighth grade, I was addicted to words. Sister Noreen nicknamed me Mrs. Noah Webster because I was always reading and the best speller in the class.

By college, the dictionary had become a necessary study aid. The only way to study for the weekly tests in Mr. Polk’s editing class was to study the dictionary. We progressed a letter each week so I could just browse through the ‘Ds’ to make sure I wasn’t desperately misspelling demeanor.

He gave us 25 words each week and one week, just to be funny, I wished out loud for 50 words.

“Very well,” intoned Polk. “Since Ms. Parlin requested it, we will have 50 words.”

The photography student sitting next to me punched me in the arm as I tried to look shamefaced. What can I say. I aced the test anyway.

Nowadays, with texting and Facebook abbreviations, I don’t think spelling means much to most folks anymore. As for me, I will still go the long way around. I will look up the word in a paper and ink dictionary so that I can spell it correctly and use it in the correct manner.

But now, I can stop to browse the pictures of the dogs and cattle, too.

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