Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Dear Oxford American Dictionary

We need to talk. I'm concerned about you. When my friend L showed me her copy, I was intrigued. I love dictionaries in general, and I'm a big fan of the OED--the grandmother of lexicons. What bibliophile doesn't admire the OED? And now, I thought, an OED for Americans! How wonderful! How fascinating!
How disappointing. Like a drag queen with garish make-up and ill-fitting heels, you are laughably unconvincing. You dress up in Yankee drag, but you're still biologically British underneath. I don't care what the reviews say. You're a pitiful excuse for an American dictionary. Americans only say "bloody" in reference to someone's nose. Not only do we never say "bugger," most of us think it's a silly word anyway. It sounds too much like "bug" and "booger." Your confusion over the difference between sarcasm and irony in American usage is painfully distressing. I'm sure ryot is a very useful word when you're a native of India speaking about the rural peasants, but it really hasn't caught on over here. Your standards seem to be slipping. Don't you think there's something odd about an American dictionary that has entries with Brit. sl. or "(India)" or "(Japan)" in them?
I know it's called the English language, but you really shouldn't begrudge us (or the Aussies, for that matter) our idiosyncratic usage of it. We don't have an equivalent of l'Academie francaise to tell people what they can and can't say. I think you should work on these issues, find out where all this inner conflict is coming from.
Sincerely, A Concerned Friend.

Some people, when they want to self-medicate, turn to booze, cigarettes, drugs, pills, sex, or food. When I self-medicate--and I know this will come as a shock to you all--I buy books. I once got stuck in Philadelphia for three days during an airline snafu, and bought Hemingway and Edith Wharton to relax. My miserable college freshman year drove me to purchase War and Peace, which I still haven't read. Last Friday I went to the town's Shitty Excuse for a Bookstore and bought Little, Big (just look at that drop-dead gorgeous cover and try not to swoon with desire, I dare you. That is one sexy book), Affinity (yet more bookish seduction), and Lost in a Good Book, which is my goal for the summer (as it is every summer). The whole "read-only-women-authors" plan was a good idea, but right now, I need to read whatever I want whenever the spirit moves me. I can't wait to finish up The Sandman series and explore the strange new (to me) world of comics. And while I'm dreaming fangirl dreams, I want this poster. So. Updates to the "Currently Reading" list forthwith, as soon as I survive finals (or perhaps sooner, since I'm approaching them with a very que sera, sera attitude this semester).


At 7:24 PM, Anonymous paul perry said...

Oxford may not have produced the Ameriican dictionary that YOU want, but I think they have succeeded at what they attempted. Which is to show the use of words expected to appear in American usage, both literary and casual.
And, if a British slang term is used often enough in America to merit inclusion, so be it.
Lord knows, enough American slang has passed into other English speaking countries - should one leave it out of their dictionaries?


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