This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Thing To Do Today: compare.

The other day I happened to mention my lovely Collins Dictionary, which helps me so much with writing The Word Den.

Unfortunately the person I mentioned it to works as a publicist for Oxford University Press dictionaries.

Oh Sally, how could you, said Hattie: which was fair enough, because the OUP publish my novels.

(I didn't like to point out that Collins publish me, too. )

Anyway, yesterday the elegant and efficient Hattie sent me a lovely new copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (I already  possess copies of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (which is, inevitably, longer than the one Hattie has sent me) and also the big daddy of all dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary itself).

So, let's compare the word compare as they are treated in both dictionaries.

First of all, the Collins wins slightly on presentation because the defined words are all printed in a rather nice shade of blue. I couldn't say it's clearer, but it's prettier.

As for the text, both dictionaries agree on the meanings and derivation of the word, and both dictionaries give a helpful example of the word in context. The Oxford dictionary's example is: salaries compare favourably with those of other professions; and the Collins example is: gin compares with rum in alcohol content. I would say the Collins dictionary wins, here, as their example is, pleasingly, both informative and slightly bonkers.

On the other hand, the Oxford dictionary knows that a ferret isn't necessarily an albino polecat, so Oxford win on accuracy in that case.

And I must admit that accuracy is mostly the point of a dictionary.

The last word?

Well, in the Oxford dictionary it's zymurgy, and in the Collins (which includes quite a lot of proper names) it's Zyrian. (One is the chemistry of brewing and the other is a language spoken in Russia.)

One more thing: the Oxford dictionary smells nicest, but that's probably because it's new.

So which is best? Well, I think there's going to be room in my heart - and on my desk - for both of them.

Thing To Do Today: compare. This word comes from the Latin compar─üre, to couple together or match, from com, together and par, equal.

1 comment:

  1. Me,I just wait for the word to come up on the Word Den! But enjoy all your lovely dictionaries. They are huge fun!