Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Household Dictionary


I am a firm believer in the fact that every household should have a dictionary.  Ideally, a real paper dictionary too, not just the ability to access one via computer.  A dictionary is a very valuable, and underrated, household tool.  Beyond just the definition of words you may not know there are  historical places and figures.  There is science, art, architecture, and philosophy.  You'd probably be surprised at what sort of questions can be answered by just a dictionary. 

I use mine nearly daily. 

Like yesterday, when Matt and I were trying to decide what exactly made a pot of chili a chili and not just another soup.  Basically, I was not understanding the concept of a white chili.  "Without the tomatoes, isn't that just soup?" I asked him.  He said he thought as long as it had chili powder in it it was chili.  I disagreed because I've used chili powder in other soups before and never thought of them as chili. 
So, time to break out the dictionary.

I suppose in most American households it would be time to break out Google, but we don't really have the internet at our home.  So, dictionary to the rescue.  (And it works almost every time and is often just as fast or faster than when my guests try to look it up on the web using their phones, for the record.)
It turns out on the subject of chili Matt was pretty much right, though to be technical it seems "chili" is any dish seasoned with chili peppers, not necessarily powder made from said pepper, but that is probably splitting hairs.

While I was looking up chili I found quite the oddity, too.    "Chil'e pine', n. MONKEY PUZZLE."
What on earth does that mean?  I turned to Matt and told him, "Now the dictionary is making me ask questions, not just answering them!"  I haven't yet bothered to try to actually figure out what it means.  It just made me laugh.

I suppose it is because of my library occupation, but whenever I visit someone's home I am drawn to their bookshelf.  I enjoy looking over the shelves--seeing what others read.  And I always notice when there is a dictionary.

5 comments:

  1. White chili just does not seem right! LOL I suppose I have never, ever had chili or made chili if it has to have the whole pepper in it. I use chili powder. Oh, I made cayenne powder with dried cayenne peppers in my coffee grinder. That was one of my proud moments. Now, I want to make black pepper.

    I have a dictionary of six and use them.

    If you looked at any shelf containing my 1500 books, you would see few classics. I can get them anytime. I kept things like "Rats, Fleas, and Lice in History." Now, that is not on many shelves. I kept "The Ancient Engineers." Yes, I can make a catapult that has no kick. Well, if I could make anything, I could make that.

    Ten books a day had to come off my shelves. Finally, I had disposed of 800 books. Now, all my books could go on the shelves. I still have maybe 500 books that have not been sorted, so maybe more will go.

    My books were donated, sold, and given to friends. You would also find a 50-year-old copy of Roget's Thesaurus, aStrong's Thesaurus, and an opera encyclopedia, amongst other reference books. I always bought cheap dictionaries at yard sales and gave them to GED students. Yes, they were slightly out of date, but when a person does not have a dictionary, any will do. Of course, the minute a dictionary or any reference goes to press, it is out of date.

    Good points of dictionary usage as opposed to internet resources. I really want an OED, the full set, not the one that comes as one volume with a magnifying glass. If I had that, I would just sit and read it all day long. I love words and origins and how usage has changed through the centuries. (English major, English teacher, almost finished linguistics degree holder here.)

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  2. Monkey puzzle is a conifer native to parts of South America. Planted worldwide in more temperate and subtropical climates as a neat, if somewhat dangerous ornamental tree. They're very neat, but the falling "leaves" are more like saw blades.

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  3. Thanks for clearing that up, Mihail! Shouldn't the definition offer something more, like "South American conifer also known as Monkey Puzzle." That would have made a lot more sense to me!

    Do they actually cut you if they were to fall on you? Do they only fall when planted outside of their native zone? Crazy....you know so much about trees!

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  4. Word.

    And best of all the OED with a magnifying glass!

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