Tuesday, April 5, 2011


While looking up a word in the dictionary the other day I came across the word "Horse" as I thumbed the pages, and was struck by it's definition... "A large hoofed mammal (Equus caballus) having a short-haired coat, a long mane, and a long tail, domesticated since ancient times and used for riding and for drawing or carrying loads." So distinct...yet odd. Of course I know what a horse is, and yes, all that was described is indeed true but to see it on the page as such seemed so austere. Which lead me to look up other animals...next came "Pig"... "Any of several mammals of the family Suidae, having short legs, cloven hooves, bristly hair, and a cartilaginous snout used for digging, especially the domesticated hog, Sus scrofa domesticus, when young or of comparatively small size." Seriously? Next...I tried "Goat"... "Any of various hollow-horned, bearded ruminant mammals of the genus Capra, originally of mountainous areas of the Old World, especially any of the domesticated forms of C. hircus, raised for wool, milk, and meat." I couldn't stop. Why had I never looked these common animals up before? And then...the best one yet..."Human"... "Humans, known taxonomically as Homo sapiens are the only living species in the Homo genus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family. Anatomically modern-appearing humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, reaching full behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, and problem solving. This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees the hands for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other living species on Earth. Other higher-level thought processes of humans, such as self-awareness, rationality, and sapience, are considered to be defining features of what constitutes a "person". Like most higher primates, humans are social animals. However, humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families to nations. Social interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. With individuals widespread in every continent except Antarctica, humans are a cosmopolitan species. As of January 2011, the population of humans was estimated to be about 6.89 billion. Humans are noted for their desire to understand and influence their environment, seeking to explain and manipulate phenomena through science, philosophy, mythology, and religion. This natural curiosity has led to the development of advanced tools and skills, which are passed down culturally; humans are the only species known to build fires, cook their food, clothe themselves, and use numerous other technologies. The study of humans is the scientific discipline of anthropology." I have to say...I felt a little like Diane Court in Say Anything with that big dictionary of her's all marked up with all the words she had ever looked up. Or did I? Now that I think about it, I felt more like Lloyd Dobler...I've never looked these words up before...at least not that I remembered...never really thought about it or cared. And so, I've decided that I will make a point to look up new words every day. Not big, over the top pretentious words, (even though I do love those just the same)...just simple ones, simple things, like cow and duck and biscuit...things we live with, things we talk about...words we throw around and never really know the definition. And...how cute to maybe print these up, frame them, and hang in our hall or the toddler's room? Why not, right? While my dictionary adventure wasn't exactly as exciting as "Googling" yourself, your friends, or potential lovers, (you know you've done it) it's still exciting to see what Merriam and his colleagues have come up with. And...of course this new obsession of mine should be marked with the purchase of a new dictionary...a cute one, right? I'm thinking leather bound...maybe pink or croc embossed. We shall see. Now...stop searching the "A's" for "Ass". It's not as funny as you would think! For a look at some super cute dictionaries (that just beg you to look something up) click here. Or here for a smaller version... image credit: jennibick

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