I love dictionaries. Even though I believe I have a reasonably extensive vocabulary, I can open a big dictionary and immediately find words I’ve never heard of. It’s like a book full of treasure. When I have nothing to read, I can open a dictionary and entertain myself quite happily. I may never use those words in my writing or conversation, but there’s something magical about knowing them. (Not to mention the advantage they offer when I’m playing Jeopardy against my family!)
Back in our poverty-stricken youth, we used to play a game called Dictionary. All you need is a big dictionary (you can play with a small one, but the bigger the dictionary, the more fun the game) and a legal pad and pencil for each player. The person who’s IT first chooses a word she doesn’t know, and pronounces the word to the group. If no one else knows it, that’s the word in play. IT writes down the correct definition, while everyone else writes down a definition of their own devising. Once all the definitions have been created, all the players turn their papers over to IT, who reads all the definitions out loud, then allows each player to choose which definition he believes is the correct one. Points are awarded for creating a false definition that wins votes, and of course, IT earns points if no one guesses the correct definition. We used to play this game all the time and some nights I’d be exhausted from laughing at some of the definitions. If you’ve never played, I highly recommend you try it.
But the thing about that game is that it often led me to words that later inspired entire short stories (and one unfinished novel, that may someday be finished if I can ever locate the file. It’s on a floppy disk somewhere in the house.) When I have trouble getting started working, I visit my dictionary. It’s a monster volume – I could injure an intruder with it. I stand it on its spine and let the pages fall open, then let my eyes wander. If you don’t own a dictionary (and good heavens, why not?) or if you’ve been satisfied with using an online dictionary, you need to go out and get one. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a shiny new one – go to a thrift shop, a library sale or a used book store. Sometimes the older a dictionary is, the more interesting words it will have hidden inside. There’s magic in words, and the dictionary is where all that magic is gathered in one place.
**I’ve been asked to announce that reservations for rooms for ConCarolinas 2014 (the home con for almost all of the MW crew) are going fast. The reason for this is next year’s guest of honor…George R R Martin! If you’ve been considering coming to con next year, and you want to be absolutely certain of having a nice warm place to collapse at night, it couldn’t hurt to make your reservations now. http://concarolinas.org/index.php/cc/cchotel/83