How to get away with reviewing a dictionary

By Ryan May

gaunt•let noun 1 a sturdy glove long enough to cover the wrist and part of the forearm. 2 hist. an armoured glove. 3 the part of the glove covering the wrist. take (or pick) up the gauntlet see TAKE. throw down the gauntlet see THROW. gaunt•let•ed adjective [Old French gantelet diminutive of gant glove, from Germanic]

For most students, a good dictionary is essential to success in university. While many useful dictionaries are available on the Internet, few contain uniquely Canadian terms and phrases. In addition, many lack the useful extras provided by a print edition such as style and usage guides.

The three major encyclopaedic Canadian dictionaries are published by Gage, Nelson and Oxford. Containing more than twice as many entries as its competitors, and being the official dictionary of the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd Edition, is arguably the most authoritative.

The full size volume consists of 1850 pages containing over 300,000 definitions, a short history of English and Canadian English, a guide to using the dictionary, a style guide, a listing of Canadian Prime Ministers and Governors General, and guides to weights, measures, notations, alphabets, and abbreviations.

In keeping with its Canadian mandate the dictionary contains 2,200 Canadian words, biographies of over 850 Canadians, 1,425 Canadian place names, and over 350 entries related to Canadian Aboriginal peoples.

As the sample definition at the beginning of this article shows, the entries are easy to read and understand. A short and concise etymology is also included. The frequent references to other entries, while understandable due to size limitations, can become annoying. For users trying to learn pronunciations, vowel and consonant sounds are listed along the bottom of each page.

The book itself is a well-made hardcover measuring 26cm Ã- 19.5cm Ã- 6cm. The spine is sewn and handy reference tabs mark the various letters’ sections. The publisher did, however, print the book on thin paper to keep size down. This means that words printed on the opposite side of a page show through, at times making reading difficult. The paper is quite sturdy though, and the book passes the page lift test–where a middle page is selected and used to lift the book–with flying colours, attesting to the quality of the paper, ink, and binding.

Overall, despite one or two small faults, this new edition of the authoritative reference on the language we all use on a daily basis is well worth its price ($59.95) and would make a fine addition to any student’s desk or bookshelf.

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