I learned from this article yesterday in El Colombiano that the twenty-third edition of the Real Academia Española’s dictionary comes out today (the last edition came out thirteen years ago, in 2001!), and it has 8,680 shiny new words for lexophiles to caress and gaze at lovingly. Oh, and use, if you’re into that kind of thing. In fact, I learned how to say lexophile (word lover) in Spanish from the article: palabrófilo. This blog is like a ward for me and my readers, seeing as we clearly have moderate to severe palabrofilia going on. Not that I think any of us are exactly suffering.
La suerte del diccionario, quién sabe si otro libro la quisiera. Cientos, miles de lectores cada día acuden a su saber, y le creen… Pero casi nadie lo cuenta entre sus lecturas habituales.
No lo leen en orden, sino en la página de la palabra que requieren visitar, parecido a la Biblia, que los cristianos leen en cualquier parte, casi nunca de principio a fin. En ambos casos, la fe es la misma.
Who knows if any other book would wish to share the dictionary’s fate. Hundreds, even thousands, of readers turn to its wisdom every day and put full stock in it, but hardly anyone reads it regularly.
They don’t read it in order, instead turning to the page of the word that they needed to look up. A reading style that’s similar to the Bible, with Christians reading it in piecemeal, but rarely from start to finish. In both cases, the degree of faith is the same.
Yes, and just as religious people are often accused of cherry-picking verses to conveniently justify whatever belief or action they wanted to justify, perhaps we cherry-pick from the dictionary and only use the timeworn words that suit us. It may be time to finally read it from start to finish, de cabo a rabo, from a to zutano. The article tells of one learned man here in Colombia who claims to read the dictionary as if it were a novel.
What a unique book is a dictionary! And what an important role it’s played in my life. It’s hardly to be believed, then, that at this moment I don’t have a dictionary in my possession. (Stored in a box in an attic in the U.S. doesn’t count.) Wait, wait, I do have a musty Breve diccionario de colombianismos. And out of the blue, someone gave me their 1962 miniature illustrated Larousse dictionary on Saturday, complete with a sticker on the front with their name, school, and grade (Tercero D). Tell me, what are roses next to a compendium of every flower? What’s a box of chocolates when the dictionary gives me a short history lesson on chocolate in “Méjico” juxtaposed with images of a chimpanzee, a bedbug, and a slipper? (Chimpancé, chinche, chinela) A box of chocolates gets eaten in one sitting, ahem, but a dictionary is for sweetly sipping and savoring over the course of a lifetime. I vaguely remember that a former partner also gave me a dictionary (maybe a diccionario de dudas–it was a long time ago). Another friend once gave me a Spanish dictionary of synonyms (wait, I’m thinking in Spanish! I believe we call that a thesaurus in English), but I think I left it in Medellín. I guess dictionaries must be the most obvious gift for someone like me, and also the most perfect. “De tierra soy y con palabras canto.”
In English, you can call someone who has a prodigious vocabulary a walking dictionary, and in Spanish you can call them un diccionario con patas or un diccionario andante.
Dictionaries also have a very funny nickname in Spanish: un mataburros (donkey killer) or un tumbaburros (donkey demolisher). In some countries, even un amansaburros (donkey tamer) or un desasnaburros (donkey un-donkeyer). With donkey meaning idiot or fool, so perhaps better thought of as ass. Which would make me want to translate desasnaburros as something like remedial school for idiots. Jackass school. In any case, spend a while reading the dictionary and watch your ignorance be beaten to a pulp.
Here’s a great little essay on dictionaries by Gabriel García Márquez. As he says, dictionaries are for playing with, for dizzily luxuriating in words. I need to spend more time playing with dictionaries, especially Spanish-only ones, not just bilingual ones.
Of the 8,680 new words in the DRAE, the El Colombiano article shared a handful of them, and I’m feeling pretty good. Cortoplacista? I just read it in Enrique Peñalosa’s piece on Bogotá’s metro. Feminicidio? Sara blogged about that the other day. Hipervínculo, used it yesterday; positividad, I used to have it my defunct online dating profile, until someone told me it sounded too much like a direct translation from English. Well, who gets the last laugh now?
It’s only $75, and I’m really wanting to own these two tomes to marinate in the riches of the Spanish language and to significantly enhance my vocabulary (also to have a much stronger Scrabble game in Spanish). So, I’ll just put this out there: the blog’s birthday was on Sunday, but Vocabat’s real birthday is in December, just two short months away. Do with that information what you will!