Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flavor Text

I was staring at my 1942 encyclopedic dictionary this morning, for no real reason except it was in front of me while I was staring into space, and I remembered the most awesome bit of editorial opinion slipping into a factual piece ever.

Now you have to understand that this is a perfectly normal dictionary, 'encyclopedic' because it has a little section with brief biographies of famous people (including, because it was 1942, Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany) and a tiny atlas showing the borders of countries during World War II, and some lovely illustrated pages showing different kinds of birds, and fish, and reptiles, and mammals, in gorgeous color.

This last is really why I bought the book, years ago; the exact same picture pages had been in another book I remember looking at when I was a tiny kid, and seeing them brought back all these memories and I had to have it at once.

Anyway, a very normal dictionary, with normal dry factual entries such as one expects in a dictionary. Objective, unemotional statements and all that.

And then there's a section with brief entries on various animals, and the entry on the jackal concludes with this dry, factual line:

"Jackals travel in packs, and make the night hideous with their discordant yelps."

It would seem that someone working on that dictionary was not fond of jackals.

He or she had kind of a poetic turn of phrase, though. "Make the night hideous." That sounds serious.

I still consider this a prime example of slipping some personal opinion into dry facts. If I'm ever working on a dictionary, I will be seriously tempted to insert that bit of information about jackals. Hey, I still remember it even though I haven't opened that book in about 10 years. It must be true.

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