From the Winter Programme Organiser
lt has occurred to me that perhaps 1 have made too much of my granddaughters in these pieces. The elder profited from knowing that nine times nine was grandad’s age, though the benefit now appears very temporary; and the elder has already appeared on the upper floor of a double-decker bus but she now serves to introduce today’s topic.
We were discussing Humpty-Dumpty, as one does, and sought to find out something about him, and I produced my Oxford Dictionary of English, a large volume about four inches thick.
“Grandad” she said: “what a marvellous dictionary”- this from a child of nine, who immediately leapt five points up the doting scale.
She was right. A dictionary is a marvellous book, and from an early age we take great pleasure in dipping into this huge well of words, and searching out in print all the naughty words we can think of ..But then it came to me: why Dictionary? For Diction is how we speak, and not for finding out the meanings of what we are saying. Admittedly it puts some idea of pronunciation in very small print, some upside down or reversed, but the function of a Dictionary is to explain.
I thought the Greeks, who are said “to have a word for it” might be on to something, because they call their Dictionary a lexicon. But that comes from lexis a word, and a verb legein – to speak. So I reverted to my Dictionary to see what it had to say for itself . The word Diction admits to being about “a method of enunciation” , but a Dictionary is “a book listing words in alphabetical order, and it does admit to being about the meanings of words, but the derivation is from the word Diction or even dictionarium, So we’re left with Diction.
And l’ve forgotten what we found out about Humpty Dumpty. I do know he’s not our next speaker; who is Mr. Russell Bowes to talk about Capability Brown; followed by Mr David Nicholls, who will take us round Ray Island; and out old friend Tony Curtis, who will take us Lord knows where.
By which time we shall be into a Happy New Year.
Winter Programme Organiser.