May 2, 2007

Nerd Alert

You've been warned.

I love words, and everything they convey. I love the linguistics, the history, the quirkiness and endless ability that words give us. So it stands to reason that I also adore dictionaries, the ultimate word playgrounds.

There's a cool article today in Slate about a guy who wrote a dictionary while in prison. Street Talk took 8 years and is a compilation of urban slang written by inmate Randy Kearse. As a writer, I can actually see how fabulous, in a weird and warped way, it would be to have nothing to do but write. Someone would do dinner, drive the kids to school, top seed the lawn....okay, I'm a little off today. I have a project I'm trying to dig up time for every day, and it's making me jealous of someone in her head a shake.

But read the piece - it's fascinating for anyone who believes, or is even remotely intrigued by, the power of language. I read another book a few years back called The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, which is about the beginning of the Oxford English Dictionary (yeah, in a post awhile back, I confessed that it's one of my life goals to own a copy of the OED - I live on the edge). It too is a tale of murder and madness and jail cells. Maybe it's something in the water...

I'm just thinking both of these are examples of how many pathways we have in our minds, and just how many discoveries are there for those who look inward for amusement rather than outward for entertainment. It's tough to advocate forced incarceration to make people use their brains, but I know in my house a PS2 sure isn't resulting in any world-changing wonders.

Anyway, I recommend the link, and the book as well.


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