Monday, April 12, 2010

Writing Quirks

Is there a vocabulary word to describe a person who likes to read the dictionary?

And are there very many of us around?*

Yep, I confess--I sat down to read the dictionary the other day. I put a pause on my middle-grade manuscript revision to attempt an acrostic for a contest offered by (here). "With a nod to the newest film adaptation of Lewis Carrolll's Alice in Wonderland," the contest site says, submissions must relate to the theme of wonder. Word count is limited to 250 words, and the deadline is April 30.

Wonder--a fun word in itself for jump-starting the imagination. So I chose a phrase to explore (no hints on my subject, sorry!) and began playing. Ideas flowed and I was on a roll--until I hit the seventh "initial" letter in my draft, the letter N. I kept stumbling on words like no, not, nothing, never--all very negative and hardly appropriate for an acrostic about wonder.

So I reached for the dictionary and began to read through the n's for inspiration. Before long, I made an interesting discovery. Did you know that a preponderance of words that start with n are...ummm...well... negative? For example: there's nag, narrowminded, nasty, naughty, nauseate, ne'er-do-well, neglect, nerd, nevermind, nitwit, and nulllify. My, what a bunch of downers.

Yet, as I read, I also found some deliciously entertaining new words: nidnod (to nod repeatedly), noctambulation (sleepwalking), noddle (the head), and noetic (of or having to do with the mind or intellect). I enjoyed the exercise so much that I repeatedly interrupted my hubby's quiet reading to share my findings--until he threatened to take my heavy tome away.

Thus my venture into reading the dictionary. The outcome? I actually got ideas for my acrostic piece!

So I ask, is reading the dictionary a strange thing to do--especially for a writer? Or is it normal? What other quirky habits do writers lay claim to? I'll be interested in your ideas.

*Dictionary readers are not alone. In fact, one man dedicated a year of his life to reading the Oxford English Dictionary--20 volumes, 21,730 pages, 59 million words--and lived to write a book about it! Read his story here and here.


  1. Call me strange. I am reading the dictionary from A to Z and am having a lot of fun selecting a vital word a day. You have a shared interest.

  2. thanks for the follow....and brush up on some great vocabulary words i hadn't read in a while or didn't know in the first place! :)

    The Character Therapist

  3. I think we writers are a strange group of people to begin with! ;-) We love words, what can we say!

  4. I think dictionary reading is an activity that I should consider. When I write my poetry, I'm always looking for "impact" words. Sometimes my brain doesn't provide the right one :)

    You have a lovely blog. I look forward to following you :)

  5. I'm a dictionary reader too!
    Remember William F. Buckley? He would pull up some pretty obscure words. I imagine he spent quite a bit of time perusing the dictionary.

    The late poet laureate John Chardi used to give talks on National Public Radio about the origins of words. He was fascinating.

  6. Oh, I'm so glad to know I'm not the only dictionary reader around!

    Thanks, Margie, for the mentions. I'm familiar with Wm. Buckley, but not John Chardi. I'm going to have to look into his work...

    And thanks, Kelly, for the follow. It's so much fun to meet fellow bloggers. Love reading your poetry :-)