dictionary love

So...I am...busy.

At least, I was. Now I'm busy catching up on doing nothing, now that I'm not so busy anymore.

Yesterday evening, I finished reading a book by a man who sat and read, over the course of a year, the entirety of the Oxford English Dictionary. (There's a link to the amazon page over on the right side. And no, it's not an affiliate link, because Amazon still hates Colorado.)

Lest you are not familiar with the OED, trust me when I say that this was no small undertaking.

There are 26 chapters, each one corresponding to one of the letters of the alphabet. Each chapter begins with a little essay, about his experience, or his thoughts, or the value of reading dictionaries (it's actually a lot cooler than you might think!).  

(I think I just heard my brother roll his eyes, 1700 miles away.)

The book is a quick read, a little over 200 pages with lots of 'white space' to make it much less intimidating than the OED itself. The end of each chapter contains a selection of interesting words from the chapter's letter. Those are worth reading too, by the way.

While reading the book, I was struck by something: five years ago, I would have devoured this book. I would have envisioned myself as being just like this man. Five years ago, I used to read dictionaries for fun. I daydreamed about being a lexicographer. I loved defining things, and I really loved etymologies. I saved words I'd come across and try to learn them when I had a spare moment. I looked for OED paraphernalia on ebay. I was likely the biggest word dork any of my friends knew.

And then, I fell down a flight of stairs. And everything changed.

Now, I see SAT words and get that feeling you get when you see a familiar face but can't quite place the person's name, or how you might even know the person to begin with. My 2004 copy of the American Heritage Collegiate Dictionary seems to hail from a faraway land, whereas it used to live on my bedside table and entertain me regularly with fun discoveries of the English language. I find myself mentioning the dictionary class I took in (my failed attempt at) grad school, the 'It's really cooler than you'd think' sentiment now replaced by 'Yeah, can you believe it? Me neither.'

It's as though I'm not the same person. As though I'm talking about my weird cousin, you know, the one who reads dictionaries in her spare time.

Really, though, I'm not the same person I was before the head injury. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing. In others, it's maybe a little sad. I've lost a quirk that used to be a continual source of amusement. There's a piece of me, a benign, even enjoyable, piece of me, that is missing. This has been apparent for some time now.

And I think I might want to reclaim it.

Last night, I pulled my AHD from the top shelf in the guest room and plopped it on the coffee table. I've decided it's going to be my buddy for a while. At least until Brian gets irked by it.

Or until Rory eats it. Whichever happens first.

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