All archives
Previous Issue (13 April 2003) | Current month | Next Issue (15 April 2003)

Quotes of the Day for 14 April 2003 – Dictionary

Noah Webster published his "An American Dictionary of the English Language" on this day in 1828. It wasn't the first dictionary, it wasn't even Webster's first as he published a less ambitious volume twenty years before, but it was a milestone. Four of my eighteen dictionaries seem to have his name on them, although they aren't my favorites. (For the record, those would be the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, and the American Heritage Dictionary.) It turns out I actually have more dictionaries than I have quotes about them, here are a half dozen of them.

Van's signature

The quotes:

The word impossible is not in my dictionary.
     - Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769 - 1821

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
     - Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804 - 1864

Actually, if a writer needs a dictionary he should not write. He should have read the dictionary at least three times from beginning to end and then have loaned it to someone who needs it. There are only certain words which are valid and similies (bring me my dictionary) are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).
     - Ernest Hemingway, 1953 letter to Bernard Berenson

I'm told that when Auden died, they found his Oxford [English Dictionary] all but clawed to pieces. That is the way a poet and his dictionary should come out.
     - Francis Steegmuller

The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the world over.
     - Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 - 1882

"Will I have to use a dictionary to read your book?" asked Mrs. Dodypol. "It depends," says I, "how much you used the dictionary before you read it."
     - Alexander Theroux, Darconville's Cat

Do you see an error on this page? A typo, a character that is messed up, a misattribution? Please let us know!