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Reaching for a Dictionary


The Oxford Reverse Dictionary
complied by David Edmonds

Oxford University Press 1999, 406 pp
ISBN 0-19-880176-X

Reviewed by Nicole Redman

My first reaction to this title was "what will they think of next?" It defeats the initial purpose of a dictionary. With this the word that you want would have to be at the tip of your tongue. That is precisely what the Reverse dictionary is designed to do. Let say you were talking about the "academic essay" that you are writing on "a group of four artworks with related themes" for "an employee examining manuscripts for style and consistency." It would be less cumbersome to say, "I am working on my dissertation on tetralogy for my copy editor." A slight drawback about this title is that it only works for standard terms so if you are searching for an archaic, literary or colloquial word you will most likely not find it here. The Reverse Dictionary list about 31,000 items. Items that share a particular concept or theme are found as entries within the listing devoted to that item. For example, entries like gopher, mate, office boy, accomplice and abettor would all be found under the item assistant. Items with the same definition (such as airship and dirigible) are arranged together in one entry within the concept article. This dictionary is a great tool for those writers seeking that elusive word to finish that perfect paragraph. A student of English would also welcome this title which comes in paperback and is slightly bigger than pocket book size format.

Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms
complied by Alan Spooner

Oxford University Press 1999, 577 pp
ISBN 0-19-860286-3

This type of dictionary is one that is continually helpful for the student, writer and office worker alike. It has about 150,000 alternative words and extensive cross-referencing. With headwords (those words that you would look up) represented in bold and arranged in a single alphabetical sequence it is relatively easy on the eyes. Within the headword may also be sub-heads in bold at the end of the entries to indicate derivatives in the form of a phrase. Cross-references are printed in small capitals that take you to another entry to provide more extensive range of synonyms. It is also helpful to have related words to the synonyms listed for example under "slope" you would find different kinds for slopes printed in italics. Antonyms for entries are also printed in small capitals and introduced with the abbreviation opp. as to not to confuse it with other cross-references. If you are not certain about the usage of a certain word there are also handy " part-of-speech labels" such as adjective, noun and also illustrative phrases printed in italics. An added bonus to this title is The Lexicon of Hard words that appears at the end of the dictionary. It provides more obscure and unusual words for interesting reading that are used frequently in word quizzes and games. Let it also be noted not every item has it's antonyms listed especially if takes a couple of words to actually indicate the opposite.

Oxford Dictionary of New Words
Edited by Elizabeth Knowles, with Julia Elliott

Oxford University Press
1998, 357 PP, $23.50
ISBN 0-19-860235-9

If you want to know the hot words of the Eighties and Nineties then this dictionary is a requirement. It covers over 20,000 high-profiled words and phrases. Each entry provides a handy explanation of the new word or phrase and also the history behind the word and its usage. The Quotations for these explanations come from a wide variety of sources such as prominent books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements as well as on-line sources. The actual use in journalism and in fiction make this section a real treat to see some of the first usage of phrases that we now used every day. The concept of this dictionary is also very contemporary with Graphic Icons used to indicate the subject fields where the word is most commonly used. For example, A tree icon is used for the environment and a stick figure stretching, for Health and Fitness. The vocabulary collected here also provides an overview of those historical, cultural and social concerns and events that were relevant in the eighties and nineties. It also reflects the effects of technology and scientific discovery that has occurred during this time. New words such as "cardboard city" and soup kitchen"also indicate how the effect of poverty and homelessness has slipped into our everyday language and psyche. There are also new uses for existing words and phrases such as "dude" and "hole in the world" which have developed totally different meanings in the Nineties. Those words and phrases that have propriety value that are actually copy-written by someone are also indicated. This dictionary is a useful asset for those people who are still bugging out about the hackers and ravers. For those of us who are part of Generation X, this dictionary is also a great time-capsule of our history. Word!

The Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary
Second Edition
Edited by Marie-Hélène Corréard & Valerie Grundy

Oxford University Press, 2nd Ed., 1998
ISBN 0-19-860242-1

For those French language novices let it be known from the outset that this is an intermediate French dictionary which is great for those seasoned users of the language but may be too extensive for beginners. This dictionary is unique in the aspect that it is gathered from real French and English. It is contemporary French language in a concise and accessible format. There are over 175,000 words and phrases and 270,000 translations that cover all areas from technical and business to literary. A new and most welcomed addition in this second edition is those phrases and words regarding French language and culture on the Internet. There is also thematic word finder for key exam topics in certified language tests. Essential vocabulary for key topics like the environment, communications, media and industry are listed in quick-references section at the beginning of the dictionary. There is also an added special focus on vocabulary building which are indicated by innovative in-text boxes on such topics such as numbers and nationalities. There are also forms of addresses grouped together in word patterns and expression which aid with usage and construct. There is also a fifty-eight-page supplement which provides more than seventy-five model letters in both French and English covering everything from writing a circum. vita to booking a hotel room. There are also a couple pages detailing the best way to translate sentences and paragraphs in both languages. It deals with both formal and informal phrasing and how to choose the appropriate grammatical language. This is definitely one of the best French-English dictionaries out here today and it is priced at less than fifty dollars which is a worthwhile investment.


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