In this post, we’re sharing a tongue-in-cheek look at dictionaries because 16 October is Dictionary Day!
A Tongue-In-Cheek Look At Dictionaries
Tongue-in-cheek definition: ‘If you say something tongue-in-cheek, you intend it to be understood as a joke, although you might appear to be serious.’
So let’s move on. This is a true and real account of the dic·tio·nary throughout history that will educate all concerned.
I have seen some people online talking rubbish about dictionaries and what they are used for. So I have put together a factual and helpful summary of what you can use a dictionary for as well as a short history.
As far back in time as human memory stretches people have needed more than anything else to do one thing.
The most important thing one can do. The very thing that makes life worth living.
That’s right we have all done it.
That thing is of course is embarrassing your idiot friend when they make a spelling mistake.
After all how could you be successful if you can’t even spell it? No, it is right and proper that people that think the second ‘c’ in successful should be an ‘s’ must be shamed.
A True Account
But, alas until 1755 there was no way of doing this!
Phillip Stanhope exclaimed in 1754 that it is ‘a sort of disgrace to our nation, that hitherto we have had no…’ dictionary of English so that we can put people in their rightful places!
Thankfully, the next year Samuel Johnson would heed this call and the next year with great effort, and much malice of forethought directed at school boys, would rectify the situation.
And so A Dictionary Of The English Language was written and, shortly after, several more.
Now, of course The British could empirically measure the moral degradation of their colonies in the Americas.
This of course would lead to the War of Independence, the date of which is not relevant to this discussion as it doesn’t appear in my dictionary.
Sadly, due to the Napoleonic Wars, which started over the pronunciation of the word ‘herb’ (the Americans sided with the French), the English were not able to enforce the true spellings of words in North America.
A Hero Arises
But do not fear! For a hero would arise West of the Atlantic. I of course refer to Noah Webster. Webster was known for many great feats not least of which was ratifying the constitution, single-handedly educating Alexander Hamilton, and founding Amherst College!
Now, now, of course he was not perfect. But what is a few vowels between friends? We don’t speak about what he did to doughnuts of course… if the Americans want to be colorful instead of colourful that is just fine.
Just so long as nobody is ever ‘culorfull’ we can all be friends.
And, ever since the decendants of Johnson and Webster have been allies. Fighting the good fight throughout history.
There were there in 1939 when Langenscheidt tried to publish an ‘English’ dictionary and though a hard fought campaign they pushed this abomination all the way back to Berlin by 1945.
Similarly, they fought a long and cold war of attrition with Russian publishing houses as they tried to push Cyrillic on the third world.
Now That Brings Us To Today.
And let us not forget that dictionaries can do more that tell you about spelling!
They can be used to correct your friend’s pronunciation too! They can even be used to convince the people around you that you took Latin and Greek at college.
All tremendously useful things.
Unfortunately they are still rubbish at describing words. I mean for example this word ‘dɪk ʃəˌnɛr’ is not even in English.
I’m sure this has been educational and worth your time. Please leave a fact about the dictionary in the comments below
By Christopher Luke Dean (ˈkɹɪs.tə.fə(ɹ) Proper Noun, From Ancient Greek)
Christopher Luke Dean writes and facilitates for Writers Write. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisLukeDean
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