Monday, August 14, 2006

Guidewords


Guidewords are the two words that appear at the top of every dictionary page to indicate the first and the last entry to be found on that page.

The neophyte plods all the way through columns A and B on many successive pages before finding the word needed. The veteran skims through guidewords exclusively, ignoring the rest of the page until he or she pounces upon the only alphabetically viable pair.

In an attempt to get more dictionary users to use guidewords, I am encouraging people to look for odd pairings, accidents of juxtaposition. Precisely which guidewords will appear at the top of a page depends solely on where headwords end up, and that is the result of typesetting considerations: type size and style, line spacing, line length, number of lines per page, column width, justification, and so on. Thus, no two dictionaries will have the same guidewords.

To get you started, here are some couples that will tickle your funny bone.

• morale morgue
• Assyriology astronaut
• bellyband bend
• reality principle rebel
• T-bone teal
• unworldly Upper Canada
• sexton shaft
• paddock paint
• news agency nibble
• rocking horse roguery
• glacier glass
• dreamer drill
• skylight slather
• pinch Pinkerton
• frosting fry
• shipmaster shock
• pornography portico
• bracket fungus brain
• minister mint
• Beard beautiful
• sack saddle soap
• fiction field corn
• truckload truss
• precipitation predicament
• fourfold fox trot
• sediment seep
• funny bone fuse
• Anáhuac anarchism


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