Day four of the A-Z challenge and perhaps now would be as good a time as any to stop counting the days.
But not the letters of course, for they are entirely the point of the challenge. And so it is we find ourselves at the letter ‘D’.
I awoke this morning with very little idea how I might tackle ‘D’. There are many words of course, that begin with the letter ‘D’ but none were ‘Distinguishing’ themselves. I was more than a little ‘Disconcerted’. It was quite a ‘Dilemma’. Perhaps I should turn to a dictionary for inspiration, I mused. Then it struck me, the word ‘Dictionary’ begins with a ‘D’ and that seemed a very appropriate thing to write about.
Mrs Proclaims and I are going through a process of decluttering (now I think about it ‘declutter’ begins with a ‘D’) and I recently carted off a load of stuff to the local recycling centre (sometimes referred to as ‘the dump’ which also begins with a ‘D’). But we’ve yet to tackle our bookshelves. Which are full of novels we’ve already read, or probably will never read. Some are kept for nostalgic reasons but truthfully we could get rid of quite a few. There are also reference books of varying value. I probably have marginally more use for the 2016 edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook than I do for the 2012 edition. But as I’ve yet to write anything of any commercial value I have less use for either than I’d like to admit.
In amongst the novels and reference books are quite a few dictionaries. Fourteen to be precise. At least that’s all I managed to identify in the cursory audit I carried out in order to inform this post.
Fourteen dictionaries is quite a lot to own is it not?
There are mitigating circumstances. Mrs Proclaims and I are linguists. Well Mrs Proclaims is a linguist, I am a former linguist really, insofar as my current career has little to do with being able to speak other languages. But I did once study French to quite a high level and I’ve studied Italian, Spanish and Welsh to varying levels of competency.
Mrs Proclaims is a more able linguist than me and can speak French and Spanish fluently. She has also studied Latin (out of choice, in her own time, which seems crazy to me but which somehow makes me love her all the more) and is currently learning German.
Still that’s only nine languages between us, including English, (which we both also speak strangely enough).
The number of dictionaries (and they are just dictionaries – I’ve left out all of the various thesauruses (thesauri?) and grammar books that we own because that would be the rather grey icing on an already dull cake) is partially accounted for by the fact that for the most part, they predate Mrs Proclaims and I cohabiting. So where we both speak, or have both attempted to learn, a language, we probably both own a separate dictionary for that language.
So it’s not that strange, perhaps, that we have so many. Except that it is entirely unreasonable to still own all of them. I haven’t studied a language for many years so I obviously have no use for them but Mrs Proclaims, who is still very much a practising linguist, doesn’t use them either because she finds online dictionaries to be far more practical on a day-to-day basis.
Why then do we hold on to them?
Is it a mawkish reluctance to dispose of the past?
Is is just easier to leave them gathering dust on our bookshelves than to actually deal with them?
Or do we hold on to them because they are a visible reminder to our own fragile egos that Mrs Proclaims and I are actually quite clever?
I honestly couldn’t say.