I’ve always loved dictionaries.
At this time, I use dictionary.com for what I need when reading or writing. I can quickly find the information I’m looking for. But I’ve always preferred, for pleasure reading of any kind, to use braille.
When I was thirteen or so, I was given a “vest pocket” dictionary, seven volumes in braille. For comparison, my braille Bible is eighteen large volumes.
I used to love to sit and read the dictionary for fun, flipping through the pages, choosing a word I didn’t know.
When my son Caleb was twelve or so, he was given a dictionary which has 36 braille volumes. I don’t know how much Caleb has looked through it, but I never have. For fun, I decided to check it out this week.
It’s WEBSTER’S STUDENTS DICTIONARY, A Merriam-Webster Braille Edition. The Students Dictionary was first published in 1938, and the braille one in 1958.
Since this edition was specifically made for braille, there is a list of all the special braille pronunciation symbols used. There are even tactile drawings, made with raised lines, for punctuation, math symbols, and other shapes.
It carries sections on abbreviations, proper names, English and spelling rules—even an entire volume of “new words,” (new words as of 1956).
I can flip through the pages and get the pronunciation, definition, even the language history. I can get those things from dictionary.com too, but then I’m limited by the words that come up in my reading and writing.
Here I have pages and pages to sift through and skim and scan, and can pick out one at random. It makes me smile.
ADDAX, noun, of African origin. A light-colored antelope of North Africa,, Arabia and Syria, with a brown mane and a fringe on the throat.
ALLOPATHY, noun, from Greek. A system of medical practice combating disease by remedies producing different effects from the disease treated.
New word: KINESCOPE; comes from Greek. The glass tube on the end of which the television picture is made. (Still pretty new in 1956, I guess.)
Also a new word from 1956 was PIZZERIA. A bakery or restaurant where pizzas are sold.
Abbreviations. Maybe this abbreviation is too long to be of much use? Edit. for edited.
I found tactile drawings for symbols which I’ve never seen before, including the arc of a circle and the acute accent. There were drawings for physics symbols and money symbols; French and German quotation marks.
English rules include such things as the confusion between aggravate and exasperate; why not to use ain’t; the mystery of lay and lie.
Spelling rules include: to double or not to double; how to handle plurals, including irregular plurals; differences between British and American spelling; And, of course, exceptions and variations.
I had to stop so I could finish and post this.
Thirty-six volumes. Nine thousand and eight pages. What a treasure still lays ahead of me.