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12:24pm on Thursday, 21st July, 2005:



I don't like it when I do a crossword puzzle but I can't finish it because one of the words isn't in my vocabulary. This happened to me once many years ago when the answer to the clue was sabretache. It's a leather case suspended from a cavalry saddle, but knowing what it is doesn't help when you're trying to use guess the word (rather than the meaning).

Anyway, I needed a new dictionary at the time so decided that I'd only consider those that contained the word sabretache, as a test of their extensiveness. I looked at several 2-inch thick hardback last-a-lifetime dictionaries, but only one of them did have sabretache in it: the Collins English Dictionary second edition. (This particular edition is no longer in print, or I'd have given you an Amazon link to it, sorry).

Thumbing through it in the shop, I noticed something that meant I just had to buy it. You know how, in dictionaries, they have a word printed in large type in bold at the top of the page so you can help locate the word you're looking for? Well, on page 611 of the second edition of the Collins English Dictionary, I saw this:

You'd have thought they might have added a couple of lines to a previous entry to shunt it off, but they made no compromise. They're giving the meanings of words, and all words that are included must be given the same, objective level of respect.

The top of page 612 is even better:

Given the number of swearwords in English, I suppose the odds are that at least one of them would hit the top of the page, but they must have been cursing their luck that it had to be that one...

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).