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Dictionary Day honors patriot and language wrangler, Noah Webster

Dictionary Day is recognized annually on October 16 in honor of Noah Webster, the father of the American dictionary, who was born on this day in 1758. Besides his fame for compiling the dictionary that bears his name, Webster was an educator, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. Webster began compiling his dictionary at the age of 43, and it took him 27 years to finish it.

Webster believed that English spelling rules were unnecessarily complex, so in his dictionary he introduced American English spellings of words like color (as opposed to colour), wagon (replacing waggon), and center (instead of centre). He also added uniquely American words, like skunk and squash, which had not appeared in British dictionaries.

The point of setting aside today as Dictionary Day is to emphasize the importance of spelling and dictionary skills, and seeking to improve vocabulary. As important as they are, dictionary drills can be boring. For some entertaining ideas to improve your skills (or your child’s) at finding words, understanding meanings, and learning to spell, pull out that dictionary — an actual book, not dictionary.com — and try these exercises.

A dictionary offers much more than simple definitions, although it can be quite important to discover whether a word you always thought meant one thing really means what you think it means. You can use a dictionary to:

  • Learn the proper spelling of a word
  • Determine a word’s part of speech
  • Learn secondary or multiple meanings of a word
  • Find out how to pronounce a word
  • Find the origin of a word

For a clean, well-organized explanation of the parts of a dictionary, see this SlideShare presentation.

Want to learn a Word of the Day, or add that feature to your website? Check out these sites:

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http://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day

TODAY’s WORD: bumbershoot

\BUM-ber-shoot\ noun

DEFINITION: umbrella

EXAMPLES: Noticing that a light rain had just begun to fall, Grandpa turned to Susie and said, “Don’t forget to take your bumbershoot!”

“The Camas Days parade featured vintage cars; rodeo royalty mounted on horses; and the Lacamas Shores Rain or Shine Umbrella Drill Team, which wowed the crowd with their bright orange bumbershoots — not that anyone needed them.” — Kathie Durbin, The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), July 23, 2011

DID YOU KNOW?

Umbrellas have plenty of nicknames. In Britain, “brolly” is a popular alternative to the more staid “umbrella.” Sarah Gamp, a fictional nurse who toted a particularly large umbrella in Charles Dickens’s novel Martin Chuzzlewit, has inspired some English speakers to dub oversize versions “gamps.” “Bumbershoot” is a predominantly American nickname, one that has been recorded as a whimsical, slightly irreverent handle for umbrellas since the late 1890s. As with most slang terms, the origins of “bumbershoot” are a bit foggy, but it appears that the “bumber” is a modification of the “umbr-” in “umbrella” and the “shoot” is an alteration of the “-chute” in “parachute” (since an open parachute looks a little like an umbrella).

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http://wordsmith.org/awad/add.html

TODAY’s WORD: vituperation

PRONUNCIATION: (vy-too-puh-RAY-shuhn, -tyoo-, vi-)

MEANING: (noun) Bitter and abusive language; condemnation.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin vituperare (to blame), from vitium (fault) + parare (to make or prepare). Earliest documented use: 1481.

USAGE: “The judge I knew best was my grandfather. His unflappable nature helped him handle all the vituperation that comes to highly placed judges through the mails.” Amelia Newcomb; “Judges: Not All Black Robes and Gavels;” Christian Science Monitor (Boston, Massachusetts); Feb 7, 2002.

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http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/list

TODAY’s WORD: lummox

\LUHM-uhks\ noun;

1. A clumsy, stupid person.

QUOTES: “Spence regarded the lummox. He was a good-size boy, give him that – six one, six one and a half maybe – with limp blond hair…” — Howard Frank Mosher, Waiting for Teddy Williams

“Today I told myself that in actual fact anyone who takes an innocuous and random delight in his life is an absolute lummox.” — Robert Walser, Selected Stories

ORIGIN: Lummox is of uncertain origin. It is perhaps from “dumb ox” or influenced by “lumbering.”

It’s Dictionary Day, so pick up your dictionary and look up a word!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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October is National Book Month – how will you celebrate?

Woo-hoo! Book lovers, unite! The National Book Foundation has declared October as National Book Month. They’ve got some excellent information about getting your school or library involved, getting your family involved, suggested reading lists, and almost 60 years of National Book Award winners. There’s also a quiz where you can test your knowledge of modern American literature.

Here are 10 great ways to celebrate National Book Month:

1. READ that book you’ve been meaning to read. Whether it’s a novel, self-help book, or the latest Hollywood biography, get and read that book you’ve been meaning to read.

2. Start WRITING that book you’ve been meaning to write. We’ve all got at least one book idea in us. If you’ve been thinking about, planning to, meaning to write a book for a while now, why not finally get under way?!

3. Join a BOOK CLUB. Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for finding a book club near you. A recent scan revealed all kinds of themed book clubs:

  • Heard About It on NPR Book Club
  • Science Fiction Book Club
  • Let’s Talk About Romance Book Club
  • The New York Girl Books Club
  • Bestsellers Book Club
  • Paranormal and Supernatural Book Club

4. Start a BOOK CLUB. If there doesn’t seem to be a book club for your area of interest, start your own! Host it at a local library, bookstore, or coffeehouse.

5. Read with your SPOUSE or CHILDREN. What better way of generating family intimacy and connection than reading together?

6. READ OUT LOUD in a public place. OK – this one requires a bit of a quirky personality. But you probably remember the mall preachers on your university quad. The University of Arizona in Tucson has actually put up a “Preacher’s Corner” sign to designate a specific area for these folks to share their messages. Why shouldn’t your message be a passage from your favorite book?

7. Buy yourself a book at your favorite INDIE book shop. That’s right. Step away from the computer, lay off the Amazon addiction, and get thee to a real book store. Support your local indie shop while you’re at it.

8. Start a BOOK SWAP. If you buy a lot of books and your bookshelves are at the bursting point, consider starting a book swap with other bibliophiles. Check Meetup.com for already existing book swaps in your area.

9. Sign up for BOOKCROSSING.COM. If you’ve ever thought about posting a message in a bottle, this is the same idea, but of a literary bent. Take a book you’ve finished that you’re sure you don’t mind giving away. Go to BookCrossing.com and sign up. Then, get a code for your book. Write BookCrossing.com, the code, and a message about the book inside the front cover of your book. Leave the book in a public place. Check back in a week or so to see if anyone has found your book and decided to play along.

10. Turn your Halloween party into a BOOK PARTY. Have everyone dress as their favorite literary character.

It’s National Book Month, so read! Tell us what you’re reading in the Comments Section below. I’ll start!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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How will YOU celebrate “Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month”?

September has been designated as “Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month.” Now, I fully realize that writing is a tool virtually everyone uses at one time or another, but this month is set aside to honor those who’ve chosen writing and editing as their careers. Is there a writer or editor in your life who could use a little thank you or acknowledgment?

Here are a few ways you can Be Kind to Editors and Writers this month:
  1. Send an ecard to thank, acknowledge, or congratulate them during their special month.
  2. Email your favorite writer or editor and wish them a great day.
  3. Make a special point to read and comment on a blog post or article they wrote.
  4. Offer to buy them a cuppa something at their favorite coffee house. Trust me they have a favorite!
  5. Mention your favorite writer or editor in your own blog.
  6. Have a favorite book, story, or article they’ve written? Share it on the Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, and/or G+.
  7. Follow, friend, or like your favorite writers and editors – and encourage others to do the same.
  8. Post a comment or tribute about your favorite writer or editor (with a link) in the comments section below.
  9. Tweet Happy Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month or write it on your FB wall.
  10. Share this post with your social media and/or mailing list!

Although almost everyone writes at some point, writing and editing are specialized skills. The best writers and editors have invested years of time and practice to hone their skills and develop their expertise. As glamorous as the idea of a multi-city book tour and a visit to the Letterman show can be, that’s not the experience of most professional writers (or editors). It can be lonely and thankless work.

Even if you are a writer or editor, make a colleague’s day reach out and send a love note. It may come back to you in unexpected ways!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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