When I was still at school my grandmother gave me her thesaurus/dictionary, it had seen better days and a large section of ‘C’ was apparently never printed in the book but nevertheless this modest tomb fuelled a love for writing. I was instantly enamoured with the pronunciation guide learning all the exotic symbols and the sounds they represented – ‘O’ as in POT.
I know that at some point the spine fell off that great book and it was discarded. Years later I regret that moment of hasty de-cluttering and wish I still had the book that filled so many of my school day evenings, spineless or not. I now have several stand alone dictionaries and thesauruses but I rarely use them! today I noticed that I almost entirely use online reference tools often having several tabs open at a time as I search for mouth-watering words with the yearned for rhyme, meter or stress. These free online resources are wonderful and so immediate offering up options for synonyms, antonyms, near rhymes and even a button to hear the word being spoken! However I do feel a small pang of sorrow for my poor books – gathering dust on the shelves, every year growing less up to date without their entries for “retweet”, “cyberbulling” and “OMG”. What I miss most is the random flicking that you can do with a physical book – I would regularly turn to random pages looking for words I hadn’t come across before. I’m sure there are more high tech ways of having a similar experience today, word of the day emails and the like, but its not the same as pressing your thumb against the pages and watching them blur until a spread falls open to reveal its delights. No doubt I am being a bit rose-tinted about all of this and I certainly won’t be giving up my online reference tools – but I think I may remember to press my thumb to the pages of the physical ones every now and then and see what treasures pop out.