A Phoenix Burning

Birthday Gift of Fascinating Proportions

For my birthday back in December, my dear husband Zan gave me the coolest gift ever.  Some of you may think me odd for finding this gift unbelievably fascinating, but props go to Zan for knowing me well enough to understand that this gift would be a favorite of mine.

A 102 year old dictionary was my gift.

Printed in 1908, it is in outstanding condition considering it’s age, and it is HUGE….approximately six inches thick, covered in deteriorating suede. The printed edging is quite lovely…

Although the name “Webster” is in its title, apparently this is not an authentic Webster’s dictionary.  I had difficulty finding any history on this publishing.  However the little that I did come across mentions the fact that Webster let his copyright expire, thereby allowing other publishers to “steal” the name and use it in their own adapted versions of his original dictionary.

This publisher, Ogilvie, was one of the guilty parties to this practice.  It is now common knowledge in the Dictionary World (wherever that is) that only dictionaries published by Merriam-Websters are bona fide Websters dictionaries. Who knew?

Most fascinating to me is the “Faulty Diction” section whereas upon reading it, do consider myself an inarticulate individual indeed.

Some of my favorite “faults” include the frequent misuse of the term “off of” and the word “nasty.”

And I quote:

“Off of.  Always a specimen of redundancy.  In ‘a pound of chops off of the loin,’ the ‘of’ is superfluous.  In ‘a yard off of a piece of silk,’ either ‘off’ or ‘of’ should be omitted.  In ‘Get off of the horse,’ ‘of’ is the sign of an ignorant or vulgar speaker.”

Let’s see what Ogilvie’s dictionary says about “nasty”…..

“Nasty. Offensive to American ears when used in the sense of disagreeable.  ‘This word, at best not well suited to dainty lips,’ says White, ‘is of late years shockingly misused by British folk who should be ashamed of such defiled English…..For hardly three other English words are so nearly the same in meaning as dirty, filthy, and nasty: of which the last expresses the greatest offense to all the senses….This slangy misuse of the word is rarely or never heard in the United States.'”

Seriously, I could go on and on.  I never knew reading the dictionary could be so entertaining.  🙂


11 responses

  1. It is a very good gift. If you are interested in language, of course. I can spend hours with my books covering the danish words.
    My wife gave them to me on my birthday several years ago.

    January 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

  2. I like how you showed us your gift and a view of a time when language was taken a lot more seriously. Sadly, in this time of texting and twittering, words are taking a beating these days.

    January 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

    • It is discouraging, isn’t it Scott? However, even I—a former English teacher—find it extremely easy to slip into “faulty diction.” We are barraged by it, and it soon becomes the “norm.” I find I second guess myself as I’m writing a lot more than I used to, and have gone to the dictionary and my writer’s manual more than I ever did in college simply because I can’t trust myself anymore! lol

      January 17, 2010 at 6:58 am

  3. Zandic

    Wow Great Gift?? Thank you.
    I feel after almost 2 decades I am starting to get you a little bit.

    January 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

    • Are you kidding me? We’ve lasted almost two decades because you “got me” from Day 1….

      January 17, 2010 at 7:00 am

  4. What a special gift, and you showcased it so well!
    I have to say that your photography has come a long way since I first found your blog, and that’s so wonderful to see! (Not that your pictures weren’t good then, but they’re even better now)

    January 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    • Thank you Daily! I know so much more now than I did then. Feeling kind of stuck lately. Just need to take some time with it.

      January 17, 2010 at 6:54 am

  5. I think that is a great gift too! Fascinating. I could totally get lost in that!

    January 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

  6. karma

    I agree with that “off of” thing. It is really redundent and I think I make an effort not to say it! When I learn a rule like that, I try to be conscious of it. It really bugs me when people use “aggravate” when they really mean “irritate,” for example.
    That “nasty” one is funny! Nasty is definitely a regular part of my vocabulary!

    January 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

  7. dalia66

    that is a seriously cool book!! I can understand why you enjoy it so much.

    January 21, 2010 at 8:12 am

  8. What a fantastic gift ! I love how you presented it, pictures and words. But now… I hardly dare speaking nor writing in English any longer 😦 Imagine me translating words and thoughts directly from the French into Webster English. Will you correct me if I use some “nasty” expressions 😉 ?

    February 12, 2010 at 2:50 am

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