This post was written by one of our current library interns, Amna Ali.
Gleeson Reference is home to a wealth of dictionaries ideal for quick searches on specific terms and phrases, or browsing and explorations related to subjects of interest, be it something as specific as “microbiology or molecular biology” and “investment” terminology or more broad-based such as cultural literacy or the classical age. Featured at the Reference Desk this month is a selection of dictionaries connected to the world of written and spoken language.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang is one of a number of dictionaries at Gleeson that focus on slang and unconventional English. It features 70,000 words and phrases dating from the early 16th century to the present from English-speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, parts of the Caribbean, and the United States. Entries include parts of speech, etymology, approximate time periods, geography, brief definitions, and occasionally, usage examples and cross-references. Slang tends to veer into the realm of the vulgar and coarse and it is no surprise that the dictionary of slang is filled with derogatory, scatological and sexual terms. Nonetheless, it is a valuable resource for students of literature and culture and all those interested in how slang’s provocative counter-language lives in and expands the world of communication. (Call Number: PE3721.G74 2000)
Among the displayed resources is The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions. If ever the mention of the name of a real person, historical event, or literary character which is not simply a straightforward reference in a piece of writing or a conversation has intrigued you, this is a good source to turn to for concise and helpful reference help. Allusions used in the English language are grouped thematically under headings such as Anger, Change, Dreams, Explorers and Guilt and more than 180 other general headings. Besides a brief overview, the use of allusions is illustrated with quotations from a variety of literary works and other texts. Some 22 “special entries” are also included and treated in more depth, for example certain allusions drawn from Greek mythology and the Bible. Thus, if you have ever wondered what the “Dunkirk spirit” alluded to, or what is meant by a “Clark Kent like transformation”, delve into the dictionary of allusions for a readable and concise background to the usage. (Call Number: PE1580 .D45 2001)
Prosody can be considered the specialized language of the craft of poetry. The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices is a valuable resource for those seeking to understand this specialized language. It is a collection of 132 definitions and samples and caters in particular to practicing writers and poets. The author is an editor of The New York Quarterly and a professor of poetry and brings his years of experience into play to provide a thorough overview of each term and samples drawn in his own words “from the entire range of master poems of world poetry.” Turn to The Poet’s Dictionary for brief and accurate description of poetic devices and larger overviews of their usage, be they sonnets, epistles, epithalamions or canzones. (Call Number: PN44.5 .P3 1989)