Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Look it Up.

Wednesdays were vocabulary word day in grade school. "Mom, what does reticent mean?" "Look it up." was always her reply. About 1964 a book salesman knocked on our door and sold mom two copies of the Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (enlarged from the consise edition) with Student Handbook. With student handbook means that the first few pages include color pictures of the presidents from George Washington (1789-1797) to Lyndon B. Johnson (1963- ). I wrote "1969" in black pen when Nixon took office.

Aside from the over 10,000 words in this particular dictionary, you'll find sections on astronomy and space, biology, chemistry (including nuclear energy and valence... another vocabulary word), the plays of Shakespeare, modern physics, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, homonyms, music history highlights, the Constitution of the United States, and calorie chart.

Other than magazines and the Bible, these two dictionaries comprised our home library. Most of the time our black and white TV didn't work, so I'd read. I'd go for the illustrated words first: anvil, aphelon, carpel, cartridge, hen's egg, harlequin, nerve cell, samovar, tea shoot, and vandyke beard and wonder why some words were illustrated and others not.

If I let the book fall open to its comfortable middle: "nefarious, nepenthean, nephew, neuritis" with the only illustrated word located center page along the spine's crease: "nerve center." Seriously?

I volunteer at the local Family History Center on Wednesdays as a researcher/consultant. But most of the time, I tell stories. I brought in Grandma Julie Dudgeon's ledger today for show-and-tell. And then started reading a new book that I'd ordered from the Ray (Missouri) County Historical Society. I quoted the author, William E. Paulson, in last night's blog. What's unique about this recount is that he pieces together the stories behind the events. Mr. Paulson starts with Block 1 Lot 1 in the township and identifies the evolution of merchants and residents of Orrick from its dedication as a village in 1869 through the book's publication date of 1975. Here's one of my favorites:

"East unit of Lot 6: Mr. W.T. Bailey had been a harness maker for years, but always working more or less as a silent partner of E.L. Hunt in Block 15. Since about 1928, he worked for himself. However, the harness business was failing. In 1947, he retired and devoted full time repairing shoes... About this time, Mrs. Bailey developed an illness and the doctor recommended goat's milk. Mr. Bailey acquired several goats. He made halters for his goats and for others in the area. He started taking a national magazine covering the milk goat industry...and noted that not one of these magazines advertised halters, so he decided to place an ad just to see if there was any demand for the product. Soon he was devoting full time to filling orders for halters. When he died in 1948, Hallie took over the business and continued there until 1963. Breaking away for awhile, how may of the following parts of harness can you identify: pole strap, breast strap, hame strap, breeching, quarter strap, hames, back band, blinders, tail crupper, reins, belly band, traces, tugs, bits, halter, spreader..."

Language changes.

In his opening paragraph, Mr. Paulson states that "This writing covers not only my memory, but I have relied on writing of my father, Elmer A. Paulson, who was born and raised in southwest Ray county, a tailor in Orrick for over 66 years and a factor in potatoes for over 40 years." Okay, that made me smile. I'm not sure what a factor in potatoes is, but I'm sure that if I look it up, I'll find it illustrated.

2 comments:

  1. This is the second blog of yours I've read and they're both wonderful! What a great prose style! Beautiful, Donna, beautiful! What a gifted woman you are. I am proud to have you as my friend.

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