Saturday, March 10, 2007

what the heck?!?

Do you have dictionaries for sale here?

This is the common question I hear being asked of salesclerks during my book hunts/haunts in used book shops.

I first heard this question on board MV Logos, sister ship of MV Doulos, when it docked in Makar Wharf in Gensan in the late 80s. Unlike MV Doulos, MV Logos had a greater variety of books for sale. I had a grand time piling up hardbound business books (at P100 per) on my aching arms. Not to mention sweating like a pig! (the ship was swarming with people of all ages and sizes).

It was only after I heard the same question being asked over and over again that I took time to examine it.

>Who is asking?

- mothers with elementary kids in tow. Good start! parents who want to provide their kids with a basic tool to learn English.
- high school teeners. A bit late! But never late than never.
- college students. Waaaaay too late! They're like old people asking if there's an available copy of Norman Vincent Peale's How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Having a dictionary/ies at home is a must. I'll be very happy to see a Filipino home with at least two dictionaries (English & Filipino) on prominent display than sets upon of encyclopedia untouched/unbrowsed on carved wooden cabinets.

>Where is it asked?

While a handful of used book shops carry secondhand dictionaries and thesauri, these come in trickles and are usually sold within a week. I can understand people wanting to buy used copies of bestsellers of years past, but people wanting to buy used dictionaries? Jeeze!

Used and old dictionaries, like old sets of encyclopedia, contain old words and information. A living language is dynamic and words change meaning as the world progresses. You only need to see how gay changed meaning from happy to queer. Not to mention salvage, among other words.

When I visit National Bookstore or Goodwill Bookstore, I make it a point to browse through the self containing dictionaries to update my collection. With P200, one can buy a good updated English dictionary. Filipino dictionaries are a different story though. The newest ones are priced beyond an ordinary Filipino's pocketbook. Even the newsprint editions are more than P500 each. The cheap ones are usually thin editions which hardly contain the burgeoning words that has been added to Filipino.

The ultimate dream English dictionary of any bookworm is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), a 20-volume definitive collection. If and when I retire, i intend to spend part of my retirement pay on buying this set. I can already see myself on a rocking chair reading it from volume 1 . . . or may be I'll buy the cd-rom version and read it volume by volume on my laptop!

1 comment:

rolly said...

Where did my comment go? I was thinking it was just awaiting approval but I see you've posted several articles already so it's unusual that you haven't read it yet. Maybe it got lost in cyberspace, huh?

Anyway, what I was trying to say was that one of the best gifts I received from my father was a dictionary. The other was a camera.

Anyway, the dictionary is for all ages. It is one handy tool we must have all the time.