My grandmother’s dictionary

Recently, one of my book clubs read The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, a New York Times Bestseller and award-winning novel published by Random House. Everyone seemed to enjoy it… an informative and well-written book that easily held my interest.

I took my Grandmother’s dictionary to the meeting for show and tell, Webster’s Giant Illustrated Dictionary. It was compiled and edited under the supervision of Joseph Devlin and published by The World Publishing Company, copyright 1941. I grew up using this popular dictionary; indeed, I occasionally still use it. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mother of four. She read true crime novels, The Bible, the local weekly newspaper and The Houston Chronicle.

I’m a reader, so I look up words and phrases in dictionaries all the time. I occasionally look up new and different meanings that words and phrases have taken on in the recent past in current internet urban slang dictionaries, sometimes with shocking results. My grandmother’s dictionary includes a section of American Slang as it was used in 1941, and I thought you might find a few of the entries amusing if not surprising:

“Bible belt… a district in which religious hypocrisy flourishes.”

“boiled owl… a radio enthusiast who sits up all night.”

“boner… a mistake; a slip of the tongue; a faux pas.”

“bushwah… unwarranted statements; false assertions.”

“cackleberry… an egg.”

“geek… a snake charmer…”

“sky pilot… a minister or clergyman…”

The dictionary is a link to my childhood… a reminder of my grandmother, and I enjoy having it sit on my desk. Best of all my mother wrote my grandmother’s name on the flyleaf using her gorgeous handwriting.