Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Nov 2, 2009

Long Live Dissatisafaction – the mother of invention !

We learn from Wikipedia  that “ There was dissatisfaction with the dictionaries of the period, so in June 1746 a group of London booksellers contracted  Dr Samuel Johnson to write a dictionary for the sum of 1,500 guineas, equivalent to about £220,000 as of 2009. 

Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language. Johnson took nearly nine years to complete the work, although he had claimed he could finish it in three. Remarkably, he did so single-handedly, with only clerical assistance to copy out the illustrative quotations that he had marked in books. Johnson produced several revised editions during his life.”

Even Johnson's dictionary was not the first English dictionary, nor even among the first dozen. Over the previous 150 years more than twenty dictionaries had been published in England, the oldest of these being a Latin-English "wordbook" by Sir Thomas Elyot published in 1538.

The key word is ‘dissatisfaction”…. and it has continued to survive and inspire people to keep bringing out newer and newer dictionaries.

I must mention here two very novel dictionaries , which  were created  to simplify the life of readers:
FIRST  is a series of several specialized dictionaries by SMH Collin / PH Collin ( published in India by Universal Book Stall under arrangement with Peter Collin Publishing Ltd, UK ). They are for different subjects – Accounting, Banking and Finance, Law, Medicine, Computing, Business, Govt. and Politics and Ecology & Environment, to name some titles.  They contain main entries in the range of about 5,000 words. All the words and expressions are defined in simple terms, and examples are given of how each word is used in context. Short notes point out differences in spelling and construction between British and American English, and encyclopaedic comments are given throughout the text to expand on the definitions. Quotations are given from British and US magazines and newspapers to show how the terms are used in "real life", and the supplement section gives notes on various financial documents.

But there is something special, unbelievable yet true, as each dictionary claims : “The main words are explained in simple English, using a limited vocabulary of about 500 words over and above those words which appear in the dictionary as main words !!
Thus, any one with a limited vocabulary can also understand difficult words which occur frequently while studying technical subjects like medicine, law, computing, etc. ( The 1994 Indian reprint was priced just at Rs.50-60 only ) !!  May God bless those who conceived  & produced them!!



SECOND  is an equally amazing dictionary , titled "JARGON: An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms"   by  Robin Williams  

 Here is what Ms Williams ( who is a designer, single mother of three kids, contributing columnist for lots of design magazines, speaker, trainer and all-round wonderful person)  has to say about her creation  -in her own  words, "I wrote this book because I was frustrated with every computer dictionary and glossary I had collected. The explanations were usually so brief and they assumed I knew a host of other things. 

Jargon's purpose is to provide the beginning-to-average computer user with the full meaning of every important term in a way that's clear, complete, and non-stuffy. When I started work on Jargon, I scoped out a book of 160 pages; but eventually it grew to four times that size (700 to be precise) . As a teacher, I knew I wanted to provide longer, richer definitions than those cryptic little phrases you'd normally expect. Fortunately, the publishers  let me get carried away and create a computer dictionary that even my mother could enjoy."

Thumb through Jargon and you see definitions that are remarkably easy to find and to read (what a concept!). Rather than tiny lines of type packed in like sardines, the layout is clear and airy with plenty of white space. To enlighten readers and enliven Jargon even more, the book includes cartoons by John Grimes, whose humor has appeared with great popularity.  Robin Williams's sister Shannon contributed a cross-word puzzle to see whether you've been paying attention. And Robin's daughter Scarlett, age 7, created a delightful font - cleverly named Scarlett- for chapter headings .

It is a  book with hundreds of computer terms explained in such a way that the reader actually understands the word after reading the definition. Covers both the Macintosh and PC world, as well as peripheral terminology. Explains not only the technical definition of the word, but also the how and why of the word.

SIMPLE things are always beautiful ! Those who create them are no longer  the ordinary mortals. Our world is worth living because some one , some where is dissatisfied with the status quo and is labouring hard  for  creating a new gift for us

If this was the good news, the bad news is that as per my information, JARGON is out of print now! 

I hope I  am wrong , so that we can but it one more time !!

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