For Future Reference

February 27, 2011

I had a Completely Unrelated Thought in the shower just now, which will immediately tell anyone that knows me three things:

Point the First: People that are Going To The Store will often Remember To Check The Marinara In The Fridge before they go, to see if it’s Still Good (or even if it’s developed that green mold around the rim yet). The nutritional status of mine remains undetermined, but adhesive makers everywhere are missing out on a pizza-flavored superglue/splat gun opportunity. And there ain’t no splat like a tomato-sauce splat. Also, there ain’t no smell like a tomato-sauce smell, either.

Point the Second: My roommate is on vacation at the moment. I generally do my best thinking in the shower (I’m sure it has something to do with the metaphysical aspects of water in motion, the removal of unnecessary thoughts, and the release of the Id, but I never actually figured out what the Id did, so I’m dubious about that part), and she’s the one who most often experiences a robe-clad Ali emerging, hair in some semblence of spiky creation, proclaiming, “Look! I’m Mr. T!” (or Darth Maul. Or Pat Benatar. It really depends on what I watched that day.) Since she’s been gone more than 13 minutes, the internet at large gets to hear the Wanderings of My Subconscious.

Point the Third: Because my brain tends to operate on a time-delay, what I’m about to say has absolutely no further relevance to any conversation anywhere. This is how you know it’s me talking.


A friend once told me that if I looked him up in the dictionary, I would find the listing for “magnificent.”  Not to be outdone, I promptly announced that in the newest edition I was double-listed as “Queen of the Universe” and “Super-Spy.”  The discriminating observer will note that neither of us wandered anywhere near “humility.”

Character flaws aside, something struck me as I was thinking about that whole personality-as-a-reference book thing.

I’ve never cared for dictionaries.  I find them authoritarian and confining, and strongly related to both spelling tests and a particular middle-school teacher’s penchant for forcing unruly classes to write out all the definitions of a vocabulary list.  Plus, they’re difficult, snooty books that look at you disapprovingly and say, “You must know how I like things to be spelled before I will tell you anything, you terrible snot-nosed child.”

(What?  You anthropomorphize these things, too, right? Right?  Anyway, stay focused—I’m sprinkling some fairy dust here.)


I also disliked atlases, which I felt were too heavily focused on giving me pictures of places, without any of the really interesting stories behind them.  I believe this may have impacted my present-day relationship with the internet, because I still prefer to read the text on a website rather than watch the friendly accompanying video.

Encyclopedias and those ADD cousins of theirs, the almanacs, were always fun.  I especially liked the way I could take a few hours and just meander through the world with them.  Always something new on every page, and it had to be interesting for some reason or another, or no one would have bothered to catalogue it. 

The reference rebel that really won my heart, though, was the thesaurus.

(Although, it was a rocky relationship at first.  I hated dinosaurs as a small child, and initially suspected it of prowling the library at night, roaring at the card catalog and menacing the biographies.)

Ahh, the thesaurus.  It’s the only book that I could go to with a “y’know what I mean?” with any hope of a quick answer.  If you want to look up those-things-that-aren’t-broccoli-or-artichokes-or-cabbages-but-kind-of-like-all-three, you’re stuck with twenty-six volumes of encyclopedia to wade through.  A dictionary?  At best, it would inform you that you were mispronouncing a schwa lurking in the second syllable.  The thesaurus, though, understood me perfectly.  “Do you mean asparagus,” it would ask, “or brussels sprouts?”  Aha! Problem solved!

No pinpoint precision for the thesaurus.  No need for detailed knowledge before beginning to define the subject of interest.  It was wide open to the full exploration of all the shimmering associative fascinations of the English language.  (I never had a thesaurus in any other language, but I’m sure they shimmered, too, although given the harshness of some languages, there’s a good chance they probably also splintered, sprung, and rumbled.)

It’s been decided, then–I’m going to remove myself from the dictionary entirely.  Save the encyclopedias for long, rainy afternoons. Check an atlas and you’ll see no sight of me!  Forever after, my friends, I ask you to look for me in that literary libertine’s lackadaisical love nest of lingual libation, the thesaurus.


(I’ll be the one menacing those biographies.)


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