December 12, 2011


I am thoroughly disillusioned with my paperback version of the “Oxford American Dictionary.” The words I need defined are almost never listed. I have a large “Oxford English Dictionary,” but it’s too heavy to lug around. I need a paperback filled with words beyond everyday vernacular. I don’t require definitions for “gadget” or “morning.” I want a dictionary that defines “palligenesia” (rebirth) or “opisimath” (to learn late in life) – new words that can broaden and give depth to my descriptions. Maybe such a dictionary exists. If so, like the turkey that receives a presidential pardon on Thanksgiving, I’d be grateful if anyone who could tell me where to find it.

(Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia: “The Miser,” 1890)

My view is that writers should behave with words the way misers do with their money. They should possess many but use them sparingly. As George Herbert, the 16th Century Welsh poet, once observed: words are one of life’s best bargains. They cost nothing but are worth much.

I came across these gem words the other day:

Claudicant – limping

Elide – destroy

Numinous – spiritual

Louche – decadent.

With the holiday season upon us, it gives me pleasure to make a gift of them to my readers.