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Honoring the Work of Noah Webster on National Dictionary Day

National Dictionary Day

October 15, 2020

A dictionary is an important tool for learners and professionals. It’s a book that everyone should have at work and at home. A dictionary helps you know the proper spelling of words, pronunciation, and parts of speech. It helps you with grammar, proper use of words and phrases, and abbreviations. It is your source to find the meaning of words.

It is thanks to people who toiled for several years to compile the content of a dictionary. Thus, it is but fitting to honor one of the greatest American lexicographers, Noah Webster, born on October 16, 1758, and commemorated each year during the National Dictionary Day, which falls on the same day.

Who is Noah Webster?

Noah Webster, American lexicographer and hailed as the Father of the American Dictionary, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. At the age of 25, he published the American Spelling Book.

Webster helped in giving vitality and dignity to American English. His spelling book and later, his dictionary, demonstrated his principle that grammar, spelling, and usage should depend on the spoken, living language.

He entered Yale at the age of 16 but left for a while to serve in the American Revolution. He graduated in 1778, worked as a clerk and teacher, and took up law. Three years later, he was admitted to the bar.

In 1782 while he was teaching in New York, he was disappointed that books for children did not reflect American culture. The dissatisfaction spurred him to push for American education, starting with the publication of The American Spelling Book in 1783. The book was so popular that most of his income for the rest of his life came from the book’s sales.

He published in 1806, “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.” He then started to expand the dictionary and changed many words’ spelling to reflect their American English spelling. Webster spent 27 years to complete the “American Dictionary of the English Language.” It was published for the first time in 1828.

Noah Webster learned 26 languages so that he could evaluate the words’ etymology. Some of those languages include Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, German, Gothic, Persian, Aramaic, Russian, Welsh, Dutch, and Anglo-Saxon English (Old English).

The dictionary comprised two volumes, with 70,000 entries. Thousands of words in his dictionary were not found in other existing dictionaries. The publisher printed 2,500 copies for the first edition. The two volumes were sold initially for $20, but due to poor sales, the price was lowered to $15, worth about $512.78 today. The second edition was published in 1840, still with two volumes.

Noah Webster died on May 28, 1843, at the age of 84. His death came only a few days after completing the revision to an appendix to the dictionary’s second edition.

His heirs sold the unbound revised sheets of the dictionary to J. S. & C. Adams, which bound and published the revised edition in 1844. The $15 price was too high at that time, and the company sold the rights to publishers, George and Charles Merriam. Merriam signed a contract with Webster’s heirs, gaining sole rights to the dictionary, and they published the third printing of the second edition in 1845 with the Merriam-Webster title.

National Dictionary Day

There is no record of who started the Dictionary Day celebration or even the first time the special day was celebrated.

However, through the years, one thing remained consistent. National Dictionary Day pays homage to Noah Webster, who spent a major part of his adult life creating a dictionary devoted to the American English language. The National Dictionary Day coincides with the great man’s date of birth, who also made many contributions to society as a lobbyist, lecturer, essayist, journalist, grammarian, and teacher.

October 16 is the day to understand why dictionary skills are essential to you and your work and a day to challenge yourself to improve your vocabulary. Learning more new words by using a dictionary will help you improve and broaden your language skills.

Ways to observe National Dictionary Day

There are many ways to celebrate National Dictionary Day. You can start learning new words and try to use them in sentences.

Children and adults can challenge themselves in dictionary-based games such as Scrabble or Balderdash. You can play crossword puzzles, spelling games, and vocabulary games. The Merriam-Webster site has several word games and quizzes that can challenge everyone. There are fun games for children and adults and extra-challenging games for advanced players.

Parents can play with their children by letting them choose words in the dictionary that they can illustrate. Each child can draw their own interpretation of the word, such as beautiful, summer, fall, winter, spring, mountain, small, big, and so on.

You can teach your children how to use the dictionary or find the meaning of new words they encounter while reading a book.

You can help your kids widen their vocabulary and instill in them a love for words by encouraging them to play as word detectives. The game’s objective is to help children discover the origin of a word by checking its etymology. Understanding the etymology of words helps children learn about word association, pronunciation, and spelling. For example, they will understand that “chlorophyll,” which makes the leaves green, is a combination of the Greek term, khloros, meaning “green” and phyllon, the Greek word for ”leaf.”

Importance of dictionaries to translators

For professionals such as translators, dictionaries are essential as reference tools. The dictionary allows the translator to understand the original word’s semantic range and lets them choose the most appropriate word for the translation. Using a dictionary gives the translator more freedom to choose words that may otherwise seem unfamiliar.

Although there are bilingual dictionaries, professional translators prefer to use the monolingual dictionary. Bilingual dictionaries assume that most words directly translate into another language, which is not the case. Many words in the source language can have different meanings in another language.

Accuracy is key to high-quality translation

As linguists, we join our fellow translators, interpreters, language learners, and teachers in celebrating National Dictionary Day. Here at eTranslation Services, we aim to provide the most accurate and high-quality translation that exceeds our clients’ expectations. We use the right tools and reference materials to ensure that our translations are on-point. Moreover, we only work with native-speaking translators who understand the nuances of the language. We make it easy for you to get in touch with us when you need translation services. You can reach us by email through contact@etranslationservices.com or by phone by calling (800) 882-6058.

To everyone who loves words and languages, Happy National Dictionary Day
 from all of us at eTranslation Services!

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