Diabolical dictionary

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Had anyone else sold their dictionary – their big dictionary – I might have felt sorry for them. But if you’ve seen the classic suspense film Les Diaboliques (1955), you won’t feel any pity for its cruel male figure. The actors shown are Véra Clouzot and Paul Meurisse. Véra’s husband, Henri-Georges Clouzot, directed the film.

If you haven’t seen Les Diaboliques (Diabolique in the US) and have a taste for Hitchcockian thrillers, take a chance on it without reading up on it beforehand. 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, if that helps persuade you. And Halloween is just around the corner.

One last thing. Did you ever have to sell your dictionary? What was the last one you bought? Someone please say The Devil’s Dictionary.

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29 Responses to Diabolical dictionary

  1. J C says:

    YES! Last week I bought a copy of the Devil’s Dictionary! whattayaknow…..

  2. Ken Grace says:

    I didn’t buy The Devil’s Dictionary, but I have read it. Go, Ambrose!

  3. acilius says:

    I’ve never had to sell a dictionary, and would rather go hungry for a week than sell any of my big dictionaries. The most recent dictionary I bought was the 1935 corrected printing of The Concise Oxford French Dictionary.

  4. bevrowe says:

    Selling my big dictionary? Well, it’s rather tempting to do so. The 17 volumes of the OED first edition do take up a lot of my shelf space. I feel disloyal to a valued friend because I never open them any more: the online version is so convenient, and more up to date. In any case, who would buy them now?

    But I would never sell any of my other 367 English dictionaries.

    • Stan Carey says:

      If you felt you could part with them, and needed the shelf space, I imagine you would find a buyer sooner or later. Maybe on eBay. I have no idea what the going rate is, mind.

      367? And there I was thinking I had rather too many dictionaries. That’s a lexicographic library unto itself.

  5. mhtdulaney says:

    I have a three-volume Oxford Compact that my semi-evil ex-father-in-law gave me as a gift in the eighties. I never use it. Would I sell it? Not a chance, although I suppose I could think of it as a dictionary FROM the devil.

  6. astraya says:

    For my birthday, two people gave me a gift card from a major shopping centre chain. I had the choice of the full Macquarie Dictionary, hardcover, for $100 or the concise edition, softcover, for $50. I bought the concise, softcover.

    • Stan Carey says:

      Sometimes there isn’t much difference. My favourite usage dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (~980 pages), has a concise version that’s almost as long (~800 pages). But it’s 13 years newer, so I use both.

  7. Theophylact says:

    Well, we just gave away our big dictionaries (Merriam-Webster 3rd International and compact OED). But we’re old and moving to a much smaller space. Frankly, the 70 or 80 boxes of books that preceded the Big Dics out the door were a lot more painful to let go of. Still have the Duden Bildwörterbuch and the Petit Larousse, though.

  8. Personally I sell as many of my dictionaries as I can. But then I would.

  9. Theophylact says:

    I also have a Britannica Eleventh Edition that nobody wants. I’m afraid it’s for the recycling center… .

  10. petey says:

    a dictionary changed my life – really. i was given as a 13th birthday present the brand-new, at the time, American Heritage Dictionary. i read all the articles about linguistics in the back, and here i am decades later having made a career out of it. yay dictionaries!

    • Stan Carey says:

      That’s very cheering, and I second your yay. As a child I pored endlessly over my Collins Gem pocket dictionary, keeping it usable with sticky tape when overuse wore it to pieces. The AHD is a house favourite too.

  11. bevrowe says:

    It was Arthur Mee’s Children’s Enc. that got me. And then a 1910 EB which we somehow acquired.

  12. bevrowe says:

    Much as I value the net, I feel sorry that no one will ever publish a printed encyclopedia again. Of course it would be out of date even before it was printed but surfing is not the same as poring

  13. Jeff Stevens says:

    I’ve never sold a dictionary. I don’t recall ever buying one either. All of my dictionaries have been inherited. The one that I use most frequently–resting prominently on its own small table in my library–is an 1899 Webster’s Unabridged.

    • Stan Carey says:

      A vintage edition! I like the idea of it having its own table. My big dictionaries (AHD, Shorter OED, Chambers Slang) I keep together, with the big usage dictionaries on the shelf above them.

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