I have a big dictionary, and I’m not afraid to use it

By Amy Beth Miller

At 6:55 a.m., with the school bus well on its way to our driveway, I stopped to pull a dictionary from the shelf. I was dashing off an excuse for my daughter’s absence the previous day, and I couldn’t remember whether “stomach” ends with an “e” or not.

Because I am an editor, people expect me to be an excellent speller. “No,” I tell them, “I just have a dictionary, and I know how to use it.”

Actually, I have several dictionaries, two of which I keep beside the cookbooks in the Hoosier cabinet. That morning I chose the children’s dictionary, because I didn’t want to try to read the small type in the paperback dictionary we refer to during Scrabble battles. Those books are within reach of the kitchen table, where my daughter does her homework and we sometimes play board games.

In my office, I have a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary at my fingertips. When a school group was touring the newspaper office where I worked a few years ago, a teacher was thrilled to see a dictionary in my hands. “I use it every day,” I told the class, much to the teacher’s delight.

One other dictionary sits on my bookshelf, mainly for sentimental reasons. It’s a huge unabridged dictionary that my boyfriend gave me when I was in college. It was a sure sign that he understood me, and today he’s my husband.

I used the unabridged dictionary frequently when I was in college, although it is heavy. When my roommate asked how to spell a word and I wasn’t sure, I’d jump up and wrestle the big book from its shelf. “I can look it up,” my roomie would say. But I had to find out. That’s probably one of the reasons I became an editor.

Today my daughter uses the unabridged dictionary much more than I do. It’s an excellent weight for holding down craft projects that she is gluing.

That’s OK with me. Last year when she had to write her spelling words in sentences, she would frequently pull out the children’s dictionary to ensure that she understood the correct meaning of a word. Yes, she has her own dictionary, and she knows how to use it.

What is your favorite dictionary?

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4 responses to “I have a big dictionary, and I’m not afraid to use it

  1. I use Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. For years I toted around an earlier edition I received as a writing award at high school graduation. Eventually, I wore it out.

    • Amy Beth Miller

      I love the idea of using a dictionary so much that it becomes worn out. It might be time for an update, though, Frank. I’m using Webster’s 11th edition.

  2. I, too, am a horrible speller. Thank the Heavens for the majority of things being typed and spell-check these days. Though, when I went to college, my aunt (who is a third grade teacher) got me a pocket dictionary to take with me to class. I still have it to this day, because I’m still a fan of hand-written things (and can’t spell, obviously.) It’s my favorite, even though it’s not large or complete. It works for me :)
    -Ava

    • Amy Beth Miller

      It’s wonderful that you still use your aunt’s gift, Ava. I’ll bet that she would be pleased to know that, if she doesn’t already.

      It’s important to have a dictionary that fits how you use it. I’m sure that some people would find it odd that our family has multiple dictionaries, but we use them in different ways.

      I wonder how many of our readers use more than one dictionary.

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