Tuesday, December 04, 2007


The other book I bought last week was the Oxford Dictionary of English. My wife raised her eyebrows as I lugged it into the room.

"What?" I muttered defensively.

"Haven't you got enough dictionaries already?"

It was a good question. I already own The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (Revised Edition), Bloomsbury Dictionary, Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, The Oxter English Dictionary and several others which I can never find when I need them. Like now. Oh, and there's half a dozen Encyclopedias as well, but they don't really count.

My all-time favourite dictionary though is called - I think - The Penguin Paperback Dictionary. It's about five years old. It's full of words , just like the others, but what distinguishes it is the excellent way it illustrates how they should be used. Or it did. Unfortunately, because it's a paperback I managed to break its spine in two. My wife took it away to get it re-bound. That was a year ago and I haven't seen it since. I really loved that book. Unfortunately, so does she. I can't seem to locate a replacement and I suspect it is now out of print. This latest purchase is okay, but it's not perfect so I guess the hunt will continue.

The new dictionary isn't completely useless though. Later that same night my wife was leafing through some notes pertaining to her Contract Of Employment. Her employers have been looking at the way their organisation is managed and have decided they need to implement some fairly radical structural changes. As a result they intend to "Allocate staff from departments to new divisions and issue proleptic contract changes to take effect 31 July 2008." Now, I've been in management for over thirty years and I've studied its workings in some considerable depth but this word is a new one on me. I hauled out the newly-purchased dictionary. "Proleptic: The representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so."

Wow. I can't decide in this instance whether the use of this word is Orwellian or more like something out of Alice In Wonderland. Either way, I'm glad I've got enough dictionaries to build a stout defence around me against this sort of management gobbledegook.


  1. There are loads of Penguin dictionaries in paperback on Amazon - new and used.
    Just come across a rhyming dictionary and it just jumped into my wishlist all by itself!

  2. Management like marketing jargon relies heavily on confusion to keep the masses under control and to bend them to management's (and marketer's) evil will. I'm sure Jock Pundy would be able to enlighten you on this. I do have to say though that proleptic sounds like a medical procedure done in parts most others don't go.

  3. Pundy, it's very plain that this company needs a good writer, who has a good dictionary. You should offer your services and get paid a packet! :-) I also just bought a MASSIVE size Oxford dictionary (with a gift voucher from work) ... now I have one in French/English and one just in English. All my other dicos were medium sized. But I love to know I have EVERYTHING covered. :-)