Keep your online dictionary. I want the 20-volume Oxford set

Keep your online dictionary. I want the 20-volume(ˈvälyəm) Oxford(ˈäksfərd) set

By Thelma Fayle `

In 1974, a friend paid $90 for a dictionary. While the flies were going in and out of my cranked(kraNGkt) jaw(jô), he confided(kənˈfīd) more than the price. He said his two-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was the “condensed(kənˈdenst) version.” His treasure weighed 12 pounds with its magnifying(ˈmaɡnəˌfī) glass stashed in a little drawer(ˈdrôr) above the books shimmied(ˈSHimē) into their royal(ˈroi(ə)l) blue case. He told me there was also a 20-volume set, and it was “the best dictionary in the world.”

I was 16 then, and have wanted that book booty(ˈbo͞odē) ever since.

Almost 40 years later, as I was quietly(ˈkwīətlē) slipping out of my new lover’s arms at 4 a.m. to head to the local annual(ˈany(o͞o)əl) book sale – a fundraiser(ˈfəndˌrāzər) for literacy(ˈlidərəsē) projects – Daryl whispered, “Why on earth would you leave so early when they only open the doors at 9?”

“Hoping to find a very special dictionary,” I whispered.

I wiggled(ˈwiɡəl) into spooning(spo͞on) for a few more cozy(ˈkōzē) minutes to describe my decadent(ˈdekəd(ə)nt) dream of finding a second-hand, 20-volume set of the OED. If I found one, I planned to have a square coffee table built for it. The top would be a sheet of tempered glass and I would line up 10 books on either side with spines(spīn) facing up, so they could be read from above. I would place my dictionary-coffee table in the centre of my living room as a focal(ˈfōk(ə)l) point. It would be the biggest of dictionaries in the smallest of houses – and I would use it all the time. I whispered a description of my imaginary(iˈmajəˌnerē) find, as though it were appearing right in front of us; Daryl could see my old dream too.

I would have invited him along, but waiting hours in a pre-dawn(dôn) lineup for a book sale was too much to ask of a new beau(bō). I slipped(slipt) away and left him in his own dreams.