The Butter Lamb Reference Library (BLRL) exists to proclaim the good news of reference books as a source of trustworthy information to challenge misconception, 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 lost some of their allure these days and that most folks prefer the web. 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 inaccurate or incomplete (see screen capture above from actual web search of the word “anachronist,” which IS a word). Still, I can see the writing on the wall. The web isn’t going anywhere and reference books are heavy, large, and generally inconvenient. (Even some contemporary lexicographers confess 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 show them off in a museum-like setting, which is exactly what I do via the BLRL.
Why “Butter Lamb”?
In essence, a butter lamb is a wad of butter pressed into the form of a lamb. The thing about a butter lamb, though, is that it’s so much more than that. It’s a cultural artifact, a sign of material comfort, a Buffalo, New York tradition and, if you put your faith in Wikipedia, “a traditional butter sculpture accompanying the Easter meal (and a symbol of the Easter season) for many Russian, Slovenian and Polish Catholics.” They’ve even been immortalized on a t-shirt ( … er… the butter lambs, not the Russians, Slovenians, or Poles).
In their own way, butter lambs are also a nice metaphor for the English language. On the surface, the words we speak are merely assemblages of letters that mean one thing as opposed to another. But, if you’re willing to dig deeper, you soon realize that words are so much more than tools to distinguish A from B or black from white. Words come in many shapes and forms and can be used to draw pictures that reflect reality, or, as the purveyors of double-speak show, twist the things we see and hear into forms unrecognizable. Moreover, the histories of words document their origins and evolution and show how they and, sometimes their meanings, change over time like lifeforms.
It is the aim of this blog to showcase the “butter lambish-ness” (butter lambity?) of our language, be it through personal experiences, random thoughts, excerpts from whatever I’m reading, news articles, and so on. It’s also to have a little wordy fun and spread (pun intended) some appreciation for the words we too often use with too little thought.
Who Is the Butter Lamb?
The BLRL is managed, and its blog is written and edited (sort of …) by me — Joe (Joe3) Smith. Fair warning: I am neither a lexicographer nor a librarian. I have, however, worked in several libraries and I am the founder of the College Park Community Library in College Park, Maryland. I have a bachelor’s degree in English (which you probably guessed), but, more to the point, I am a fan of dictionaries (and other references), a worshiper of words, and a lover of books, and, more recently, a publisher of magazines.
Our address (should you need it for some reason) is PO Box 3067, Laurel, MD 20709.
Although the BLRL does not allow visits at this time, we do provide a word (or phrase or symbol, etc.) research service. So, if there’s something you’d like me to investigate for you, drop me a line. I am at your service.