The Smith Dictionary Collection of Laurel (SDCL) exists to proclaim the good news of reference books as a source of trustworthy information that can be used to challenge misinformation, confront willful ignorance, and provide answers to an astonishing array of questions be they serious, silly, or something in between.
I am aware that reference books have fallen out of favor these days. Fortunately, I couldn’t care less. I maintain this attitude for several reasons. Among them is that, far too often, the information offered online is simply inaccurate. For example, when searching anachronist on Dictionary.com, I was told there’s no such word (see above). My paper-based (Compact) Oxford English Dictionary begs to differ. I am not asserting, of course, that the books lining the SDCL’s shelves always provide the correct answer. Indeed, many times the information in one text will conflict or challenge the information in another. Yet, when taken as a whole, the information they provide is often more nuanced and more thorough than that found on the Internet.
Let’s face it: The web is a primarily visual medium. (Disagree? Watch another cat video and mull it over.) Text is a liability and this limits the amount of nuance it can (and will) provide. Beyond that, the web is all about the now and the next, but when it comes to words, a little perspective is often necessary. Reference books do a better job of leaving a paper trail (pun intended) for would-be etymologists and lexicographers to follow. Beyond that, books provide a more engaging sensory experience than the cold, hard interface of digital technology. (You know I’m right.)
Be that as it may, I can see the writing on the wall. The web isn’t going anywhere and, given most folk’s inability to wrest their attention from their phones, it’ll only get more prevalent. As a result, reference books, which can be heavy, large, and are generally inconvenient, are going the way of the dodo. Even some contemporary lexicographers confess that they no longer use their physical dictionaries! Thus, there’s not much reference enthusiasts like me can do about it except collect these magical texts and then show them off in a museum-like setting, which is exactly what I’m fixin’ to do.
And Who Is This “I”?
The SDCL is managed — and this blog is written — by me, Joe Smith (aka: Joe3 … it’s a long story). I am not a lexicographer. I am merely a fan of dictionaries (and other references), a worshiper of words, and a lover of books. I possess a degree in English (not surprising) from Syracuse University and I am the founder of the College Park Community Library in College Park, Maryland. I am also a member of the Dictionary Society of North America.