I was  brought up in a household where reading is as essential as eating and breathing. Every room has bookshelves packed to capacity. Only the very blah books are passed on; all the good ones are kept because “I might want to read it again”.

“How do you spell…?”, was answered with, “Go and look it up in the dictionary.”  Words became very important; delving into a dictionary brought a bunch of wonderful words to my attention. Discovering more about the English language can also create huge frustrations. I make my children squirm at school evenings when the educators who are in charge to teaching them refer to: “the amount of children who….” And I growl, “Number, you idiot, the NUMBER of children; you can’t measure them in pints!”

I was considering joining a Facebook group called:  If You Can’t Differentiate Between “Your” and “You’re” You Deserve To Die. Then I noticed the excessive number of capital letters in the name of the group. Which means the people who started it can’t punctuate!

Punctuation is as important as grammar and can change the meaning of sentences completely. Don’t believe me? Talk to the two Canadian companies who might make or lose $2 million on the position of a comma. Yesterday was National Punctuation Day in the US. Do we feast on language till our colons protest?

Want to explore more? There is a great blog devoted to unneccesary quotation marks and the National Post (Canada) has a whole raft of readable articles about language. By the way, if I use words or grammar incorrectly in this blog, feel free to let me know! Or send it to this blogger. I’m no professor, just a lover of language.

Homophones (words that sound the same, but are spelled differently) are probably the most misused words ever! Whether and weather; there and their; hangar and hanger; the list is endless.

Sometimes a homophonic error is just too delicious not to be advertised. A restaurateur client asked us to layout and print his recently updated menu. He’d been in the food business for decades and had, according to the prevailing fashion, added all sorts of currently cool items to the menu. Pity he didn’t reach for his dictionary. He managed to offend a lot of patrons before realising that the dessert on offer should have been served with a fruit coulis, not a fruit coolie.

cooliesmall
A doodle in honour the moment when a genial host turned into a bigot, because he didn’t know how to spell!
Dictionaries rock!
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4 thoughts on “Dictionaries rock!

  • September 26, 2009 at 1:13 am
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    Great post. Having grown up in the same house, with books on every spare inch of shelving space and many other annexed flat surfaces, I can relate to all of this.

    I loved hearing my childrens’ vocabularies develop as they grew up – particularly when they used a turn of phrase that added a layer of depth, or colour, or nuance to their conversation.

    Words are such powerful tools and mastery of them is such a joy, and such an asset.

  • September 28, 2009 at 6:53 am
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    As long as you master them! One of my kids asked me what MacAbrie was this weekend (a smelly Scottish cheese?). Eventually established that it was a mispronunciation of “macabre”. Not from the dictionary, but from Harriet’s favourite book – The Tyrano-thesaurus – so no pronunciation guide!

  • September 28, 2009 at 3:24 pm
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    One that went down in history in our house was a young relative who asked what a ‘cathadrill’ was. Turned out it was a cathedral. And there we were thinking horrific thoughts about medical and dental equipment hybrids.

    • September 29, 2009 at 6:40 am
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      ouch! the whole body winces at the thought!

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