Learn from words of a dictionary

Published 7:30 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

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Would you be offended if somebody called you a sexagenarian? Whoa there, no insult offended. At first glance, you might feel like it is an X-rated word. It isn’t. Neither are the words septuagenarian, octogenarian and nonagenarian. Actually they are age-rated. Maybe you knew that sexagenarian means somebody between 60 and 69 years old. Septuagenarian means someone who is between 70 and 79, and octogenarian means someone who is between 80 and 89 years old. Nonagenarian describes someone who is between 90 and 99 years old.

Some years ago, I blew a gift certificate from my son on the purchase of the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Along with that bound book, I also received a dictionary and thesaurus for my computer. I ran upon the above definitions when I paused on the word age and found myself headed in various directions. I discovered that in the United Kingdom the words grey pound mean the amount of money old people as a group has to spend. If you are referred to as an OAP it means you receive in England an old age pension from the state. If you are considered old there, somebody might say you are wrinkly, a crock (which could also mean an old car), or long in the tooth. We have all heard the expression “old as the hills” in referring to the elderly, but I was pleased to find that the word ancient cannot be suitably used in referring to an old person because it means hundreds or thousand years old.

I learned that if people in England want advice, they write to an “agony aunt” in a newspaper or magazine who pens an agony column, Come to think of it, if you follow any of the advice columns in our own country, you might agree that a lot of times that title can fit them as well.

Once you complete your dinner, you might be invited to sit down for afters, which simply means sweet food after a meal or what we call dessert.

Years ago in conversation with a lovely English lady who was married to a distant cousin of mine, she told me that the English refer to diapers as nappies. A picture in the dictionary I referred to showed me that the fender of a car is called a wing.

Besides all those wonderful definitions, there are study pages in the dictionary for those who want to brush up on grammar and punctuation. It tackles such as when to use who, which and that and the difference between effect and affect.

I have not finished A in the dictionary yet, so I have a long way to go in exploring some fascinating words, expressions and facts. Since I have pushed it aside for some other interest, it is time to push them aside and return to my dictionary lessons.