Thursday, May 8, 2008

In reference to...

btt button

  • Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library
Do I? I have an entire shelf in my office, behind me right now, devoted to dictionaries, writing reference and process books, my thesaurus, a quotation book, as well as my New York City guides like Manhattan Block by Block and Not for Tourists Guide to New York City. I have my French/English, Hebrew/English, Russian/English, German/English, Italian/English dictionaries as well as my 501 French Verbs. I have my trusty Webster's which I still prefer to using an on-line dictionary. I am not a very good speller so I turn to it several times a week and it makes me smile. I'm not sure why, probably because it is so familiar. I have my classic Strunk and White The Elements of Style, yellowed with age and the more recent The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon - a more humorous take on a guide to grammar. I also have numerous writing process books which comfort me to have close at hand - Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Charles Baxter's Burning Down the House (which I supposed is really more lit crit) are some of my favorites. I have saved my favorite reference for last - a wonderful dictionary recommended by Mrs. Sahl. Mrs. Sahl was a retired school teacher from Boston who tutored me for the SAT and in any class in which I was having a bit of trouble in my last two years of high school. She was big on recommending books - I remember reading Steinbeck and Upton Sinclair with her. But her finest recommendation was The Dictionary of Foreign Terms in the English Language by David Carroll. I used to feel that if a Latin phrase appeared in a book I was reading that the italics simply meant 'keep going, you're not meant to understand this.' No longer. Now I could look up ex post facto, jus regium and not only Latin phrases - Schadenfreude, from the German, and Juggernauth from Hindi are there too. It includes terminology used in law, music, and science as well as colloquial expression that might be quoted in books or erudite conversation, or common words from other languages that have made it into English. It cost me only $4.95 at the time and was well worth it.

4 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

You post reminded me that I forgot to mention my Sanskrit to English to Hindi Dictionary!

My BTT post!

Table Talk said...

Bird by Bird has turned up in a number of answers now. I love the title. I'll have to look it out.

Matt said...

Got the new edition of Elements of Style with illustrations. Along with all the writing handbooks and dictionaries are my Lonely Planet travel guides! :)

Megan said...

I really do think I need a copy of The Dictionary of Foreign Terms in the English Language. Thanks so much for your recommendation!