Remember how in “Say Anything” Diane Court had that huge dictionary where she had underlined all the words she’d ever looked up? This is not that. But it does have special meaning to me. It’s a book I like to hold.
Sure, I’ve used it. There’s a lot to love about this little red Junior Dictionary from the early ’70s, including its detailed line drawings and perfect, simple definitions.
Here’s a good example – the entry for “Mask:”
Okay so the first illustration is a little spooky, but still. Charming, no?
Growing up, there were a few dictionaries around the house. I remember a small paperback one that no one ever looked at. Then there was the mammoth Random House Unabridged dictionary (1967). It was so big, there was no holding it. There was only grappling with it and deferring to it in awe.
A book that large had to be right about everything.
It was the OED of our house. The definitive source for every dispute. You can buy a similar one on EBay now for $50 .
When deciding which books to keep as I cleaned out my childhood bedroom, I chose the Thorndike & Barnhart Junior Dictionary instead of the 1967 RH, because it was the first one I ever used and I’ve always loved it. Holding it is easy and pleasant. I enjoy its sewn (not glued) binding, the fraying edges of the red cloth (not paper) cover, the ridiculously musty book smell that just screams “OFFICIAL!”
I love it, too, for the perfectly preserved signatures of my older sisters on the front and back inside covers – well, almost all of my sisters. One is conspicuously missing, and I’m not surprised by which one.
This dictionary is one of the reasons that I fell in love with books. And though my Kindle includes a complimentary New Oxford American Dictionary (and it also looks up words at the touch of a button as I’m reading, an amazing feature I really appreciate), I know I’ll still always want to hold this little red book in my hands.