Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Oh My!

Nerdy confession: I've liked dictionaries and reference books of various kinds for a long time. I think it went back to my childhood poring over the flags of the world and the overlays of the human body in our "up-to-date" World Book, and then later studying for the spelling bees with my dad. Later on, I remember perusing with delight the telephone entry in my grandma's 1920 encyclopedia.

As a grad student who gets exposed to lots of concepts all the time, this love has been recently been renewed. From the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory to my trusty Dictionary of Etymology, they make for great reference points and sources of inspiration for my writing. They're essential to my creative writing as well--I would have had a harder time with my Alaska novel manuscript without my Alaska Dictionary and Pronunciation Guide.

So I was excited when, while taking a few minutes this morning on the blog circuit before digging into my homework, and found this gem of a blog. It's a dictionary-in-the-making of delightfully new words the author finds in articles online. I could find this very inspiring for the creative and word-geek parts of my brain, but feel rather sad that none of these words would go over well in academic papers (unless I were to find a way to study them--hm...).

This find, however, will balance out the Dictionary of Theories I found for cheap last week to bring myself up-to-date on the academic side. One for each side of the brain is fitting, actually. It makes me feel just the trifle bit less disappointed that I wasn't able to buy that dictionary of statistics about causes of death (which would have been helpful for my study of mystery stories--or so I tried to tell myself).

Anyone have any recommendations for inspiring or useful dictionaries or other reference works? Stories about the dictionary or encyclopedia? Or just dictionary words you've liked for a long time?

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