Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The Precision of Language
I recently heard about Ammon Shea's new book coming out this August, Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. In it, Shea documents the most bizarre, obscure, and lovely words and definitions to be found in the behemoth dictionary.
Today, I stumbled upon one myself. A patron called the library to ask whether the word "handsome" could be used to describe a girl.
"Yes," I said. "Well, you probably wouldn't use it to describe a girl. You could use it to describe a woman, though."
"Why?" he asked.
I couldn't exactly put my finger on that part, so I turned to the OED, and found among the definitions one that explained the connotation perfectly:
Handsome: "beautiful with dignity."
"So, that wouldn't apply to a girl?"
"Not usually," I said.