I started reading the AHD4 last Thanksgiving. Just like Forrest Gump going on a
long run, there was not a strong reason. It simply felt good. I did have a few
inspirations, however, including Malcolm X who read a dictionary while serving
prison and the contemporary Amon Shea who read the entire OED (Oxford English
Dictionary) in one year. Averaging one page a day, I reached page 365 (the color
chart) on Nov 25, 2020.
Early on, I tried to retain interesting new words by gathering a list each month.
This was my tried-and-true strategy for acing exams. That effort waned, however,
after March. There were too many candidates.
Since then, reading the AHD has felt far more than getting familiar with the
definitions. For me, it has become seeing the world, both exploring the things
unbeknown to me and rediscovering those I thought I knew.
I rejoiced in new words like col, clew, etc., for example, as if I had learned
the secret phrase to the thieves' den. Some people would pass through life
without ever meeting them. I was delighted just the same as I came across a new
meaning of a faimilar word, e.g., color as characteristic. Something I had known
all along and which I even forgot in Chinese, e.g., cockle-bur, made me chuckle.
More subtle pleasures came when some new knowledge stuck. For example there are
two Colorado Rivers and there are Colombia and Columbia.
Copying entries becomes a dialogue between the AHD and me. Often I guess, e.g.,
the spelling, number, tense, articles, etc., as I put down the words on the note sheet
after glancing over them on the page. As I go back to the page for a few more words,
I sometimes spot errors in my guessing and have to correct them. I couldn't have had
a better teacher.
Daily reading gives me a sense of progress--I cannot bear otherwise--if I
haven't done anything else, at least I have finished a page of the dictionary.
In fact, it has gradually dawned on me that this might be a bigger deal than I
thought and maybe it enriches me more than I gives it credit for. Wherever this
will lead me, it is going to be fascinating.