So I’m writing about my characters’ troubles, really giving them hell, and my son asks
me, “What’s a plight?”
Apparently I talk out loud.
“It’s a bad situation. Trouble. Dire straits.” The look on his face prompts me to suggest
looking it up in the dictionary.
Normally we use the good old Information Superhighway to solve these paltry
educational dilemmas, but said son is in the middle of an online test for school. If he
clicks away, he’ll have to start all over again.
A genuine first world plight.
I reach for the student dictionary, the one I found at the Salvation Army last fall on the
5/$1 table. Now before you give me that virtual high five for my superhuman bargain-
hunting prowess, check this out. We have looked up maybe six words in said dictionary
over the past four months, and not one of them has been in there.
No chloroplast, no squalor, no plight. No kidding.
There’s a quote on the front cover:
“The limits of your language are the limits of your world.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
If this Student Dictionary were the limit, it would be a very small world indeed.
You could plant tulips, but no hyacinth. Good luck photosynthesizing without
You could eat beef but no beef jerky. No hotdogs or bratwurst either. But what
difference would it make– you couldn’t have ketchup. Not even if you spelled it
Is the sky the limit? According to Student Dictionary it is, because there is no cosmos.
If Student Dictionary were President, there would be no infrastructure, no bikes on
pathways, no extroverts, no magenta crayons.
Scientists would have no osmosis to speak of. They could study dolphins,
but not porpoises, apes but not baboons.
On the upside, insecurity, malicious trickery and hair gel would be a thing of the past.
Remember that archetypal nemesis from when Webster’s was President? He won’t be bothering us again. Thank you, Student Dictionary.
What can we do with Student Dictionary?
That turns out to be pretty limited, too. It doesn’t weigh enough to be a doorstop.
The pages aren’t big enough to be used as artsy wrapping paper. I can’t clobber
Marnie’s posterior with it. Origami? I’d probably slice my finger off trying to square it
up. Anyway, none of those things even exist in Student Dictionary’s limited world.
It’s going into the dumpster.
Thank Webster, we still have those.