DICTIONARIES DEFINE THINGS OR DO THEY?

April 29, 2020

I suppose it’s time to purchase a new Dictionary. I prefer the printed type.

My standby Dictionary, The American College Dictionary, published in 1959 by Random House of Canada Limited, is outdated. All the words I need seem to be in this Dictionary. It has 1,421 pages and starts with the word “A and ends with Zyrian.”

I’m not too much for new words when old words work. The problem with my Dictionary is the old familiar words have new, unfamiliar meanings. Take “hero,” for example. My Dictionary defines “hero” as “a man of distinguished valor or performance, admired for his noble qualities.” This definition reminds me of first responders, the brave servicemen raising the flag on Iowa Jima.  Mother Teresa’s untiring work among the poor in India, Dr. Martin Luther King, who had a dream bigger than himself and Lou Gehrig, diagnosed with (ALS). This incurable neuromuscular disorder at his retirement at age 36 he said, “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” For me, these are heroes.

But, as I read, watch, or listen to the news reporters’ definition of today’s, heroes, I see or hear a description other than people with distinguished courage or noble qualities. Today heroes are the overpaid athletes who assault their spouses, engage in rape and murder, the celebrities who take off their clothing the most, and the most often, males who are now females and females who are now males. We describe a shrewd businessperson by how much they can get and how little they and their business give in return.

No matter who’s the President, he or she will not fit my dictionary definition of a “hero.” In the ‘50s, we described the President as a politician; the same is true today. What we need is a “statesman or stateswoman.”

I’ll continue to open the door for my wife, pull out the chair for her in the restaurant. I’ll undoubtedly shake the hands of service people I encounter and thank them for their service, and salute the flag. I stand when the National Anthem is played or sung, and attempt to contain my patriot emotions when the Blue Angels do a flyover.

I think I’ll also keep using my old Dictionary.