Thursday, October 7, 2010

That Time of Year, Again

Fall is my favorite time of year.

One of Shakespeare's Sonnets puts it almost like this: "That time of year when thou mayst in me behold, when yellow leaves or none or few do hang upon bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang..." From memory, so I may be off a word or two. But in the lines Shakespeare celebrates the beauty of autumn in the form of yellow leaves hanging on the ruins of a destroyed cloister, possibly wrecked by Henry VIII and his rapacious hoards of philistines. He recalls a happy memory of the echo of birds singing amidst the signs of the pending winter.

Well, it's that time of year in Denver again.

It's Dollar Dictionary Drive Time. Interneighborhood Cooperation celebrates its 15th anniversary of collecting funds in 2010 which provide a free dictionary and invaluable thesaurus for all Denver Public School third graders. Since the program started, INC volunteers have handed over 225,000 books to over 100,000 Denver students. This program is counter culture. My son, Daniel Patrick, told me once when I introduced him and my daughter, Meaghan Kathleen, to the Oxford English Dictionary in the Regis Library, "Dad, I don't need a dictionary, I have all this on my computer."

That's true, but the Oxford English Dictionary, now even available on a disk, gives you the joy of etymologies, when the word was first used in our language and several quotes by famous authors using the word in context. Steve Nissen and Cathee Fisher, co-chairs of the drive, are to be congratulated for their years of service to Denver's children.

What computers and the Internet are doing to books and dictionaries in our lives makes hand held, old-fashioned books, covers and all, artforms to be kept and saved. In a book dictionary, you can make a small red mark next to a word you've looked up. The second time you look it up, as Sr. Carlos Marie at Holy Family School often reminded us word finders, "One should be embarassed into remembering a word with two or three marks by it."

Send in your donations and checks payable to Dollar Dictionary Drive, PO Box 18347, Denver, Colorado 80218. Tell your friends. Bring some warmth and joy into the lives of third graders in Denver who face the pending winter possibly more content armed with their own personal dictionaries.

And I'm upset. The Regis Library has moved the Oxford English Dictionary to a new place in the Reserve Section.

Change is not easy.

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