If You Speak English

If you speak US American English, you should be using the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.*  I paid half a day’s wages for my unabridged, hardback paper copy (with a CD!) and it’s worth every penny.  The nice thing about the AHD is their Usage Panel which consists of non-fools generally keeping to the idea that words mean things, and should keep meaning those things.  They also largely omit phrases which I like, because a dictionary is for words, not piles-of-words-jumbled-into-terms.

Without an intentional conservative bent in your dictionary’s editing, you end up with dictionary companies like Oxford deleting words like “minnow” right out of their opinion of what is good enough to include in a dictionary.  Okay, it’s just the Oxford JUNIOR dictionary.  Kids don’t need to know what a “blackberry” (the plant, not the phone) is, you silly goose!

  • 1) Acorn, WTF that’s not a thing!
  • 2) Sure it is, look in the dictionary!
  • 1) Nope, it’s not there
  • 2) Oh well, my mistake then.

Sure, they have to keep the size of the book down to please the bean counters.  I think they would better serve their readers by not adding nonsense at the expense of legitimate English terms.

Oxford isn’t alone.  Merriam-Webster, Cambridge and others also participate in the Oxford tradition of adding words which should be allowed to fade into ignominy.  It pleases me to know that I am not alone in thinking this is all silliness and should stop.  AHD’s usage panel adds words too, of course, but not BS words that will be forgotten except by people who stumble across them in the dictionary.  I guess I am an old fogy by now, and I’ll take my 4th edition over a 5th edition, given the choice (get off my lawn).


*They even have an online search of their dictionary, which I have made a Keyword Search in my internet browser.  I have it set up so typing “define ______” in the address bar gets me to the search result in the online AHD, which is the definition page for the word, if it is a word.


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