Sadly, my beloved Merriam-Webster dictionary (affectionately called MW) split in half this morning after I dropped it on the floor. I knew it was just a matter of time. I bought it in 1985 in the college bookstore, and it’s been with me ever since. I have to tell you, I’m feeling a little weepy.
When the time came, I easily let go of the 80’s blender hair, leg-warmers and the Madonna off-the-shoulder sweater, but I couldn’t let go of MW. It’s been with me through college and job searches, my first “real” job and all the ones that followed. It faithfully served me through freelancing at home and the abuses of three young children. The red cover was the first to tear off.
Now, it’s yellowed and has that musty-aged smell. The dog-eared pages, including the explanatory notes at the front of the book, keep ripping away. It starts at page nine, now. The “population of places in the United States,” S through Z (that’s pronounced zed, by the way, as in King Lear: “You are a zed! An unnecessary letter!”), on page 841 is hanging by a thread, too. MW split open between pages 262 and 263: fast/fatuity on the left, and fatuous/feather on the right. It’s ironic that page 263 also carries the word fealty (n, pl -ties: loyalty, allegiance).
I suppose it’s a sign. My old dictionary is hopelessly behind the times, a little like myself. It doesn’t list words like “Facebook” and it doesn’t offer the option of using the word “text” or “Google” as a verb (i.e., “I’ll Google it and then text you the information”). There’s no mention of phone service alongside the adjective “cellular.” But, at least it had the decency to list both Canadian and American spellings as correct.
So, what should I buy to replace it? I’m willing to entertain recommendations from my writer friends. A new dictionary won’t be as warm and comforting a pal as MW has been over the years and I doubt it will have the same feel. It won’t trigger the same memories. The pen marks dragged across the top edge, for example, the result of one particularly boring political science class.
Oh, for heaven’s sake. It’s just a dictionary!
But I don’t think I can bring myself to throw it out. It would be like throwing out the memory of who I was then. Maybe I’ll just put it on the bookshelf and let it collect dust for awhile, until I decide who I am now.