Retail Therapy of Wicked Word Books; Concise Oxford Dictionary - Tenth Edition Completely Revised. Edited by Judy Pearsall (Oxford University Press, Pounds 17.99). Collins Concise Dictionary - 21st Century Edition. General Consultant J M Sinclair (Collins, Pounds 17.99). Encarta Concise English Dictionary. Editor-in-Chief Dr Kathy Rooney (Bloomsbury, Pounds 17.99). Reviewed by Ross Reyburn
Byline: Ross Reyburn
Who can lay claim to producing Britain's best concise dictionary? Traditionally Oxford University Press has been the guardian of the English language, but while its Concise Oxford Dictionary, first published in 1911, has been hailed as the world's favourite, its newer rival, the Collins Concise Dictionary, is preferred by many.
Now both publishers have produced impressive new editions, and Bloomsbury has joined them, launching its new Encarta Concise English Dictionary as an alternative to its unwieldy heavyweight main dictionary. All three are ideal volumes for everyone from students to Scrabble players, with each dictionary having around 1,700 pages and an identical pounds 17.99 price.
Judging the merits of each dictionary on the new additions they include, however, is somewhat of a lottery. The latest revision of the Concise Oxford, for example, includes such new entries as that ugly word adultescent, digital divide, duvet day, retail therapy and text message.
Of these, the Concise Collins misses out on duvet day ('unscheduled extra day's leave from work, taken to alleviate stress or pressure and sanctioned by one's employer') but it does include expressions such as air rage, named and shamed and push the envelope that are not found in its rival's pages. You cannot help feeling its efforts to keep pace with the modern world have become a little frenetic when you find a description of the appalling Big Brother television programme listed alongside the phrase coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984.
Encarta lists air rage but, oddly, does not include the more commonly used expression retail therapy. It also has a liking for such ugly contemporary slang expressions as facemail ('ordinary person-to-person conversation') and meatbot ('human being') as well as the more sedate housing society, which neither of its rivals lists, although the term has been around for decades.
The word wicked offers a classic example of how a younger generation can swiftly change the meaning of a word. All three dictionaries list its usage as an adjective meaning wonderful/very impressive, but Encarta goes further, giving a somewhat contrived example of this meaning.
While the Concise Collins, which was created in 1982, doesn't match the linguistic authority of the Concise Oxford, it is the more impressive for its wide-ranging scope. This is no ordinary dictionary, for it veers into encyclopaedia territory by listing countries, counties, states and cities around the world, major buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral and famous names in history.
Birmingham's description as 'an industrial city in central England' may seem a little outdated following the success of the NEC and ICC but the city's three universities are listed with their foundation dates.
Elsewhere the West Midlands is well served with entries for everywhere from Warwick to the Wrekin, while the Black Country is neatly summed up as 'a formerly heavily industrialised region of the West Midlands'. But there is no mention of Ironbridge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution nor its famous bridge, despite its ranking as a World Heritage Site.
The most obvious advantage the Collins Concise has over its more famous rival is its list of famous names. Under William Shakespeare (1564-1616) for example, every one of his plays is listed as well as the fact that he was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon. …