Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

What dictionaries do you own that you really like?   I am considering buying the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th ed.  It is 2 volumes and comes with a CD.  I looked at it at Barnes & Noble tonight, and I liked it.  But I would like to hear other opinions about it or other suggestions for a different dictionary. 

Melvyn and I have discussed this, and although he doesn't give specific dictionary recommendations, he did give me some criteria for making a decision.  I'm sure he would not mind if I shared the several points he made about dictionaries in general:

From Melvyn: 

There are a number things to say about choosing dictionaries.

1. To be properly considered a dictionary, each entry must contain information about meaning, usage and etymology - don't buy a dictionary unless you have first checked that it contains at least these components for its entries.

2. While not obligatory I would strongly recommend that the dictionary you get should list affixes (prefixes and suffixes) as separate entries.

3. If possible, try to make sure that you have at least one dictionary that also gives the IPA phonetic transcription for each entry.

I believe the SOED conforms to the above criteria. 

Melvyn also gave some sage advice concerning older, used dictionaries and the importance of having an etymological dictionary for reference as well:

 -- . Give serious consideration to laying your hands on older and second hand dictionaries. They are not only very useful, but they are also frequently better than dictionaries that are being currently produced!  Rummage through any second-hand bookshops you might have. There has been much 'dumbing down' in recent editions. The latest edition of the Oxford Concise Dictionary is a particularly bad example of this degrading trend.

-- Have at least one dictionary that is specifically for etymologies. The 'must' is the very readable but still authoritative work by John Ayto: "Dictionary of Word Origins". It's designed more as a coffee table book - but be warned; it can be quite ddictive. Ayto is a first rate scholar - and you can trust him because is not an edubabbler and has absolutely nothing to do with the schooling industry.

So, what do you have or want to have on your shelf at home? 


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