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Celebrating National Dictionary Day

October 16, 2019


Celebrating National Dictionary Day on WORDWALK


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this morning of October 16, 2019, my smart-speaker Alexa reminded me that today is National Dictionary Day.  Upon hearing her announcement, my thoughts went to what I believe is the oldest book on my bookcases.  I went upstairs to the smallest of my bookcases–one that my dad and I crafted and varnished about fifty-five years ago.  Being able to easily identify the book by its texture and size–3.75 inches by 5.5 inches by three-quarters of an inch–I quickly found my mother’s dictionary.  The Webster’s dictionary  was copyrighted in 1924 by J. H. Sears and Company, Inc.  The light red hardcover book was “set up, printed, and bound by the Kingsport Press of Kingsport, Tennessee.”  The weight of the paper is significantly heavier than in most print dictionaries today; also, the paper is of a rougher quality.


My mother, who was born in 1914 and was graduated from Clinton High School (Indiana) in 1933, did use this little dictionary.  On occasion in the 1950s and early 1960s, my sister and I also used this old dictionary.  I am delighted to still have this 1924 dictionary that belonged to my mother.


One of the interesting finds inside this sturdy, small dictionary was the word “folder,” which was listed with only one definition:  “an instrument to fold paper.”


The half wall between my dining room and living room is topped with a long line of books, one of which is one of the Italian-English/English/Italian dictionaries of my paternal grandmother.  I am also pleased to have this dictionary because I recall so often seeing my “Grandma Farm” (Elizabeth Massa) sitting at a small desk, using this dictionary, and writing weekly letters to one of her sons in California and to her daughter in New Jersey.


During high school, I remember frequently referring to a very thick, hardbound, blue dictionary.  Throughout our years at ISU, my sister and I stepped up to using a maroon collegiate dictionary; however, at the university library, we more often checked a word’s definition in the Oxford English Dictionary which was kept open on a book holder on a swivel stand.


When I was studying at Indiana State University, I had a professor (Dr. Karavellas) who once had his class guess what was his favorite book.  After many guesses were offered in Spanish and English, the professor revealed that his favorite book to read was–a dictionary.


One of the gifts which most warms my heart was a very large-print dictionary (in eight hardcover volumes).  Although I have given away at least three large-print English dictionaries, the Spanish-English/English-Spanish dictionary still stands on a shelf of the bookcase which was once my Aunt Zita’s.  This surprise gift of the eight-volume dictionary was from my parents, and I am still not ready to part with such a meaningful gift.


Probably in the early 1990s, I purchased a “Franklin Language Master,” which is an audio dictionary.  I type in the word, press the enter key, and then listen to the definitions.  Although I now access dictionary information via my desktop computer and Alexa, I still so frequently rely on the Franklin Language Master that I keep it in a small drawer to the left of my computer.  The handy machine measures only six-by-six inches and is about one inch at its greatest depth.


Are you wondering when the first dictionary was published?  In October of 1806, Noah Webster published A COMPENDIUM OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.


Happy National Dictionary Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow (who would like to recommend a “DOGtionary”)


October 16, 2019, Wednesday




From → Uncategorized

  1. joanmyles permalink

    Love this! I, too, am a big fan of dictionaries. Ari and I agree with Willow…a dogtionary is way overdue! *smiling heart*

    • Hi, Joan–Thank you so much for reading my blog post about dictionaries, giving it a “like,” and commenting so that I know that you are also a fan of dictionaries.  Willow sends her greetings to Ari!

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. What an interesting article, Alice! I really enjoyed reading about all the dictionaries that have had and continue to have such significance in your life. You always remember things in great depth and precise detail.
    Love to you and Willow,

    • Hi, Mary–I am glad to know that you enjoyed this post about dictionaries.

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

  3. Susan M McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for another interesting article and informing us about National Dictionary Day. We also have quite a collection of dictionaries, both English and English/foreign language editions. I agree with your former professor that dictionaries can be interesting reading material as often when I look up a word, I find myself reading other entries on the page. Another positive aspect of the print dictionaries is the speed in which you can look up a word. One time several family members were discussing possible meanings of a word. By the time they found it on their electronic devices, I had already found and read it in the dictionary which was on a bookshelf in the next room. And I’m so happy to hear that you kept the special large print set that your parents gave you. No one will ever appreciate that gift as much as you do.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Many thanks for adding your interesting comments about dictionaries to this post.  I have been surprised by the number of private e-mails I received from dictionary fans.  I am never quite certain which posts will draw more attention and feedback.

          Last weekend, I finished another great book by Louise Penny and am awaiting the tenth book of the series.

      With our thanks and good wishes, Alice and Willow

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