Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

Tag: language

Dictionary on display

This morning I looked at my bookshelves and noticed my three volumes of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. I haven’t cracked them open since I got them from Half Price Books a few months ago. I was so excited to get them so I’d have an accessible and thorough way to tap into the dictionary’s mighty powers, but, lacking space for exhibition, they’ve just languished on the shelves.

Then I saw that my standing desk—a hefty wooden podium acquired from a library rummage sale—was unusually lacking my laptop. Taking this as a sign, I cracked open Volume 1 and let it breathe:

It immediately looked like it was meant to be there. I like using that space for computer work, but I think I’ll give this a try for a while.

DDC 450-499: A grossly unfair linguistic ellipses

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

This Is How We Dewey:

  • 450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
  • 460 Spanish, Portuguese, Galician
  • 470 Latin & Italic languages
  • 480 Classical & modern Greek languages
  • 490 Other languages

Here’s the deal: I started trying to find books in each of the above 10-spots but was having trouble finding 3 that weren’t straight up dictionaries or the usual dry if practical phrase books for each of the sections’ languages. And then I didn’t post on TMHTD for a while out of benign neglect, so then I decided, Why don’t I just lump all these disparate languages together into one post so I can catch up and offend people all over the world? The end.

So yeah, we’re hopping on a redeye to fly over all these beautiful countries and their beautiful, complicated, storied languages, but hey, look out the window! There’s Barcelona and Rome and Athens and whatever the capital of Romania is!

The Dew3:

Madre: Perilous Journeys With A Spanish Noun
By Elizabeth Bakewell
Dewey: 465
Random Sentence: “Uncultivated weeds reaching for the sky, taking over the one ground field with entropic gusto.”

Hide This Italian Book
Dewey: 458.3421
Random Sentence: “Stefania e una botte (Stefanie is a barrel).”

Carpe Diem: Put A Little Latin in Your Life
By Harry Mount
Dewey: 478.82
Random Sentence: “Tom Cruise is the little big man of the screen.”

DDC 440-449: Foux Du Fa French

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

This Is How We Dewey:

  • 440 Romance languages; French
  • 441 French writing system & phonology
  • 442 French etymology
  • 443 French dictionaries
  • 444 Not assigned or no longer used
  • 445 French grammar
  • 446 Not assigned or no longer used
  • 447 French language variations
  • 448 Standard French usage
  • 449 Provençal & Catalan

You thinking what I’m thinking? I hope so. Like it or not that’s what I think of when trying to speak fake French. That guttural huh huh huh is probably what the French hate the most about the French stereotype, though I don’t know any French people so I’m just gonna assume that’s true without confirming like a good cultured-enough American. #patriotism

I kid. I’d love to visit France one day, and if I do get that chance I’d likely bone up on the language beforehand using these books:

The Dew3:

Les Bons Mots: How to Amaze “tout Le Monde” With Everyday French
By Eugene Ehrlich
Dewey: 443.21
Random Sentence: “Ferme ta gueule! (shut your trap!)”

Say Chic: A Collection of French Words We Can’t Live Without
By Françoise Blanchard
Dewey: 448.2421
Random Sentence: “One suspects that the valiant Crusaders would not have been pleased.”

The Story of French
By Jean-Benoit Nadeau
Dewey: 440.9
Random Sentence: “Merchants in Sudbury still hesitate to put simple signs saying Bonjour on their doors.”

DDC 430-439: Polyglöts Ünite

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

This Is How We Dewey:

  • 430 Germanic languages; German
  • 431 German writing system & phonology
  • 432 German etymology
  • 433 German dictionaries
  • 434 Not assigned or no longer used
  • 435 German grammar
  • 436 Not assigned or no longer used
  • 437 German language variations
  • 438 Standard German usage
  • 439 Other Germanic languages

Based on the material available in this section, I’d venture to say that while Germanic languages aren’t the prettiest ones out there, they are often the most interesting. There’s the umlaut-loving Swedish, the melting-pot Afrikaans, the Tolkien-like Icelandic… I’ll never have enough time to learn them all, but were I to undergo a superhero origin story, I hope my heroic alter ego would be a polyglot.

The Dew3:

Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods
By Michael Wex
Dewey: 439.1
Random Sentence: “Men, women, and children: they drink, they fight, and they screw.”

Swedish: A Complete Course for Beginners
By Vera Croghan
Dewey: 439.782421
Random Sentence: “Vad kostar tomaterna?”

Colloquial Afrikaans: The Complete Course for Beginners
By B.C. Donaldson
Dewey: 439.3682421
Random Sentence: “Ek het vanoggend brood gekoop.”

DDC 420-429: Nouns and Pronounce

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

This Is How We Dewey:

  • 420 English & Old English
  • 421 English writing system & phonology
  • 422 English etymology
  • 423 English dictionaries
  • 424 No longer used—formerly English thesauruses
  • 425 English grammar
  • 426 No longer used—formerly English prosodies
  • 427 English language variations
  • 428 Standard English usage
  • 429 Old English (Anglo-Saxon)

While I know a little Spanish, English is (obvs) my primary language. And what a weird language it is. I’m so glad I didn’t have to learn it later in life, because in some ways it makes no sense. Especially pronunciation: this well-known poem illustrates that well. But because it’s second nature to me, it’s hard to tell how English stacks up against other languages vis a vis difficulty in grammar and pronunciation, logical spelling, and poetic beauty. I certainly enjoy writing in English, though I often wish all those silent letters—like in its buddy French—could die. Isn’t tho much better, prettier, and more sensical than though? That superfluous ugh is just… Ugh….

The Dew3:

I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop A Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech
By Ralph Keyes
Dewey: 422
Random Sentence: “Rutabaga is funny. Potatoes aren’t.”

Death Sentences: How Clichés, Weasel Words, and Management-speak Are Strangling Public Language
By Don Watson
Dewey: 428
Random Sentence: “You are trapped in the language like a parrot in a cage.”

An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition
By James Lipton
Dewey: 428.1
Random Sentence: “So, Mr. Safire, how about a phumpher of schwas?”

DDC 400-409: Learn ALL THE WORDS

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

This Is How We Dewey:

  • 400 Language
  • 401 Philosophy & theory
  • 402 Miscellany
  • 403 Dictionaries & encyclopedias
  • 404 Special topics
  • 405 Serial publications
  • 406 Organizations & management
  • 407 Education, research, related topics
  • 408 With respect to kinds of persons
  • 409 Geographical & persons treatment

Gotta admit this up front: I friggin’ love words. As an English major, a writer, a reader—pick the reason. I love them so much that I keep a list of cool words I’ve encountered that I want to remember. (*pushes up glasses\*) So I’m embarking on the 400s with great vim and ebullience. Though, curiously, I’ve thus far restrained myself from owning a physical dictionary, mostly because I can’t decide which version I should have. Plus, with the OED and Merriam-Webster adding new words every year, it would soon be out of date. And I gotta have ALL THE WORDS if I have a book of them. (Erin McKean’s TEDTalk on this topic is a great one if you’re interested. And who wouldn’t be?!)

Regardless, I’m pumped—nay, aflutter—to go through this section and see all the lexical gold we will find. Shall we?

The Dew3:

A Little Book of Language
By David Crystal
Dewey: 400
Random Sentence: “The Smiths will be in their clarence.”

The Way We Talk Now: Commentaries on Language and Culture From NPR’s “Fresh Air”
By Geoffrey Nunberg
Dewey: 400
Random Sentence: “They don’t hear a lot of resemblances to Angelina Jolie, either.”

The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World
By Charles Yang
Dewey: 401.93
Random Sentence: “It would have been fun to know what Adam and Eve said to each other in Africa.”

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