Claire Black: Dictionary not just another page in history
WALKING to the office recycling bin just the other day, I witnessed something unusual. Shocking actually. It wasn’t a slideshow of photographs of a ginger-headed squaddie flashing up on a PC screen. No, no. It was more astonishing than that. A much rarer sight to behold.
A colleague was perusing a dictionary. A bona fide book of words. A fat, tissue-paper-paged monster laid broken-spined on her desk as she studied the tiny print. It’s a sight I haven’t seen in years. Everyone usually just taps “diarrhea” into dictionary.com, don’t they? (Joke – I know it’s Dash In A Rush, Run Hard Or Else Accident.) Or, worse, gives it three attempts and then just right-clicks on the red squiggle to reveal, oh, it’s min-U-scule.
I do own a proper dictionary. It’s the founding tome of a large book tower that creeps up one of my bedroom walls, so placed for its girth and heft. It worked too, those books have never wobbled despite the best efforts of the number 22 bus that hurtles past the flat every four minutes. Not much use for checking how to spell words though.
I think there was a bit of me that believed that, at a certain age, I’d learned most of the words I was going to need. I think that was when I stuck that dictionary down against the skirting board. Nonsense. Ridiculous really. Language is constantly evolving, forever changing and developing. Great news then that the Oxford English Dictionary is constantly evolving too. The latest batch of bon mots given a place in its pages includes “vajazzle”, a term that can now be officially defined even if the concept remains utterly incomprehensible, and “photobomb”. You’ve seen the one with the seal, right?
Some of the new inclusions seem a little obvious. “Date night”, “a prearranged occasion on which an established couple, especially one with children, go for a night out together”. Or “video chat”, “a face-to-face conversation held over the internet by means of webcams and dedicated software”. What about “UI”? Oh, “user interface”. I was plumping for urinary infection. That could’ve been embarrassing. The best though has got to be “Mwahahaha’”. Without that being in there I’d never have been sure how many hahas to include.
• I AM a sucker for those books of photographs of beautiful offices. I don’t buy them obviously, but I browse, tormenting myself with the dream of working in a place where I can zoom from fussball table to yoga studio via micro scooter as opposed to the toilet with no floor covering via the lift in which the woman with the cake trolley got stuck the other week. But how I laughed when I saw pictures of Google’s spanking new London headquarters. Vaguely reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining with an added dash of ubiquitous padded headboard. Oh dear.
• THERE are many things I’d pay £1,000 for. If I had a grand, that is. I’d happily spend it on a custom built “Stoater” made by Shand Bikes right here in bonnie Scotland. I’d be happy to spend it on a week in the sun somewhere probably not right here in bonnie Scotland. Or I could always be tempted to blow the whole lot on tins of Moffat Toffee. (I wonder how long that’d take me to get through?) What I would not spend it on would be feeding a large, monochrome mammal from China that sleeps for 16 hours a day. Would anyone? «
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
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