Continuing the description of books on words in the list from post 1, which you’ll find here.
Book 11: Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary
Paperback, 560 pages, including a comprehensive index. It was published by Checkmark Books in 1992; my version is the Second Edition, published 2000, and I don’t recall what I paid for it. You can obtain a used copy for around £3.75. The current version, Fourth Edition, was published in 2010 and is available in paperback for £22.95.
The book is subtitled ‘The Book for when you know what it is, but not what it’s called.’ It provides what it describes as ‘indispensable glossaries of terms to help you define and describe whatever subject you’re writing about…’ It’s presented under 22 headings, from ‘Animals and Insect’ through Food and Drink’ to ‘Weapons. Each of these has several subheadings; ‘Music’, for example, has ‘Keyboard Instruments, Music Directives (Directives to Individual Instruments), Music Terms, Percussion Instruments, Stringed Instruments, Vocals and Song, Wind Instruments.’ There is also an extensive section headed ‘1,050 Words and Expressions You Should Know’, where there is an alphabetical list of terms ‘every literate person should know, to sharpen both comprehension and communication skills’. A comprehensive Index closes the book.
I bought this book to deal with those times when, as the subtitle suggests, I knew what I wanted to describe, but couldn’t recall or didn’t know its name.
Opening randomly, at pages 130/131, which is part of the section on Environment, subheading ‘Space’. I find listings as follows:
‘cosmology – the study of the form, content, and evolution of the universe.’ Through ‘radio astronomy – the study of radio frequency radiation from space through radio telescopes.’ to ‘zodiacal light – a hazy band of light consisting of dust illuminated by the sun and sometimes seen from Earth.’ That entry ends the ‘Space’ section and we next come to ‘SUN’ where the first entry listed is ‘acronical – occurring at sunset.’ and ends page 131 with ‘heliotrope – any plant that bends or turns to follow the daily path of the sun.’
English is a complex language, made up of words from many different sources and countries, and it borrows certain rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from the originating countries, which is what makes it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to those same students.