Six months ago, in January, this year’s blogging season began for me with the letter A. I looked at the words that the editors had chosen to illustrate, and therefore highlight, in the 1979 Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
At six kilograms and a volume of 7650 cubic centimetres, the Dictionary is a slab of language, as hefty as any gravity-based weapon, and as monumental (to my mind) as the stone stele carrying the Code of Hammurabi. Compared literally, it’s sized like the brain of a killer whale.
There are 2666 pages.
So I better move on to B if I intend to finish my survey within the next, shall we say, ten years.
I’ll discuss only the illustrated words.
B is the first letter of the naturally occurring brain and bronchus and bird and banyan, of the essential bucket and basket, the ingenious bicycle, the inventive bridge, the unfortunate bullet, and of the Buddha. Also, of Braille.
All to be expected. But wait:
Brussel sprouts are given their pictorial due, as is the bulb of the meadow lilly. Were those really the “best” items to illustrate?
How about choosing to illustrate the following words?
The technical: barefaced tenon, bevel gear, bibcock, bobinet, beylaying pin.
The furniture: bag table, Boston rocker, bonnet top, Brewster chair, butterfly table, breakfront, bulkhead, butterfly table.
Lastly, here’s a nonstandard illustration of branch. I won’t ask what the fundamental difference is between numbers 1 and 3, and whether them both being called Y branch indicates a redundant inclusion. Some questions oughtn’t be asked of artefacts from the pre-internet era.