When is the last time you read a dictionary? Have you ever sat down, and started reading the dictionary at the very beginning? My mind has been melted and reformed. My foundations are shaken, (and stirred.)
Things were defensive from the outset: The literally-first, full sentence I encountered—set off within a box, with a fancy-schmancy Merriam-Webster logo atop—is, “The name Webster alone is no guarantee of excellence.” Followed immediately by the we’re-sick-of-litigating, but-that-isn’t-stopping-us thumb in the eye of, “It is used by a number of publishers and may serve mainly to mislead an unwary buyer.” Considering myself forewarned, and forearmed with a magnifying glass, I pushed forward into the volume set entirely in a font size whose capital letters tower exactly 2 millimeters. Sure, the Preface—a two-column wall of microfiche occupying the totality of page 6a—was winsome, as far as, I assume, dictionary Prefaces go. Pragmatic was the listing upon page 7a of persons comprising the Editorial Staff. However, things became serious, bordering on salacious, with the Explanatory Chart printed, (apparently primarily for practical purposes,) in sprawled repose across pages 8a and 9a as a visual menagerie detailing the architecture and idiosyncrasies of the dictionary’s didactic details. None the less, the degree of magniloquence encountered in the long-form Explanatory Notes for that chart, which begin on page 10a, and which span some 40 columns, is penultimate.