The Scenic Route to Knowledge
My favourite place to escape from our current cold, miserable weather has been the reference section of my local library. There I can sit back in a (fairly!) comfortable chair and flick through the newspapers and magazines.
At this point many of you will be waving your IPads in the air. What about the Internet? Isn't this the 'information super-highway' where everything you want to know is a click away?
But even those of us who spend an unhealthy number of hours staring at a screen would concede that it can be a joyless experience. It's also a recipe for sore eyes and a tired brain.
Using a library reference section is like taking the slow scenic route to knowledge. And if you spot an interesting fact or unfamiliar word you are in the perfect place to do more research.
The other day I was indulging in this pleasant pastime when I came across a news story about the incredible growth in the number of English words. Apparently the number has doubled over the last century, with 8,500 new ones entering the language every year.
Where are we going to put them all? I asked myself, looking at the 20 volume, 650,000 word complete Oxford English Dictionary (OED) on the shelf behind me. Even the comically misnamed Shorter OED is two very fat volumes.
I noticed that the foreign language dictionaries in the next aisle looked a lot slimmer. I picked up the German one - it had only180,000 words. The standard French dictionary had less than 150,000.
While I was thinking about this I could see the snow falling outside. It would soon be time to go out and do battle with the icy streets. But the complete OED costs £675 and it seemed a shame not to make use of it. I reached out for Volume U-V and settled back in my chair.
I suspect the library reference section as a kind of intellectual leisure centre may be a very British pastime. Does this happen in the part of the world you live in? I'd love to read about your library experiences.
Scenic Route - using slower roads through pretty countryside. Used here as a metaphor.
Spot - notice
Flick - move pages/photos quickly, usually using thumbs
Indulging - doing purely for pleasure
Pastime - hobby, pleasurable activity
(a) Shame not to - a missed opportunity