I was raised on books about words. They never moved from the kitchen catch-all, even when my father conducted his periodic lightning raid on the schoolwork and embroidery patterns and the specimens which collected in the interesting-things-basket. The Macquarie Dictionary sat with the Webster (my mother is American), the Hobson-Jobson, a few interlinear texts, Roget’s, a dictionary of quotations, a concordance and the rainfall register.
My father would stop mid-book to look up peculiar words – in the middle of conversations he still sends visitors off to verify a word’s origin. We played Tennis-Elbow-Foot on long car trips (there were no short ones) and Dictionary by lamplight during black-outs (although my father defined most words as “a rare Latvian squirrel). We read linguistic texts (last time I was home I started reading An Old English Grammar and the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language to my father, as a break from Australian war history and Pride and Prejudice).
And the main influence all this has had on me is that I am prepared to argue until you are blue in the face that Roget’s “meaning clusters” are a far more efficient and effective format than any alphabetical dictionary, and also cooler, and that dictionaries these days are cheapened by not having an appendix with diagrams of standard cuts of meat.
Also, “decimate” probably doesn’t mean what most people think it means.
Here is a fun party game: grab your rhyming dictionary, pick two sections at random and use them to write a limerick.
In other news: I saw and sketched the Queen with Deb on Monday. NaNoWriMo starts next week – I am under strict instructions to complete my current story OR ELSE, so if there is no word from me after November, ask Aimee what she did to me.