Fat Books

Crosswords are very much on my mind lately. Wonder why that is. Some sort of Jungian dream interpretation thing, where I’m looking for the answer, or feel that the key to answering the puzzle is close maybe? Dunno. What would the puzzle represent, in that case, and what might the answer be – eat more legumes?

I was considering a clue, from the Sydney Morning Herald quick crossword (the crossword that I’m sure the aficionados laugh at and call “the kids’ crossword”, or something ruder), and the clue wasn’t “wisdom”. That was one of the clues I was considering, and wondering what on Earth could be meant by this one word prompt – it seems to me that it is often more instructive to consider what the clue wants from the crossword participant, than what the clue actually means. If a clue is in past tense or is plural then the answer will be past tense or plural, or something. It’s also worthwhile to note that, at least with this crossword, we aren’t dealing with very difficult concepts or recondite words very often, or even at all, and thus a clue may be a slightly tricky way of eliciting pretty banal information.

So it wasn’t “wisdom” but another clue, which had some connection to “remonstrance”, and I went to the bookshelves, and picked up the second volume of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, and looked up remonstrance, even though I was pretty sure I had a decent working definition in my head, because I thought – and there is shame in this motivation – that there might be a clue there to solving my clue, and besides no-one would know that I had half-cheated at a crossword. (My dad tackles crosswords with a Thesaurus, and I consider that to be grand cheating, as opposed to petty cheating, which is what you get with a dictionary.) Alas it was no help, but I learned something, as is often the case with consulting the Oxford publication, in this case about Dutch Protestants in the 17th Century.

It doesn’t seem right, somehow, to be without the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Mum and Dad gave it to me upon completion of my first degree, and maybe it’s a purely sentimental notion of mine but the book feels like a foundation, a steadying influence; cultural ballast acting as a break on the excesses of mass culture. Maybe it’s a comfort, and very little else. I don’t know. I do like to look at it. Laetitia thinks the Macquarie Dictionary is superior. Our views diverge on this point.


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