This note takes you through two stages of history. Like brunch, astronaut is a new word in the world's vocabulary, but its two parts have been around for a long time. Again they both come to us from hungarian private teacher district 9 the ancient Greeks, who may have dreamed of sailing in the air and reaching the stars, but could not do either one.
Therefore, before the 1700's, there was no need to borrow aero- (air) and nautes (sailor) and put them together to describe the balloon pilots who were just then beginning their experiments. And now, today, we have borrowed this idea from the 1700's and another Greek word to make a still newer word appropriate to modern scientific developments—sailors among the stars.
Etymologies can give you much useful information about our words. They can tell you interesting stories from times past. And sometimes they can be fascinating just for themselves, as they show you how people build and change their language.
More than the Most
When you have learned how to use your dictionary and how to get the most from it, have you finished? In one sense, yes. In another sense, no.
Your dictionary is a reference book. This means that now and then, as you need to, you refer to it for a special piece of information—perhaps for the spelling of pneumonia or the pronunciation of audacity or the meaning of nuthatch. It is not meant to be a book that you read straight through, beginning with page 1 and going on to the end. When you have found a particular spelling, you may have finished.
But you will find that the dictionary can also refer you from the entry you have looked up to sources of information outside this book. It doesn't do this in so many words, but if you truly know how to use it and can think about what you actually need to know, you will find that you and the dictionary together bring you to the proper answers.
After you have read the entry for angle, should you look up the entry for right angle? And then should you go to your math book to review all you have studied about angles?
When you find that lunar is the adjective related to moon, should you go to your science book to review, say, lunar eclipses?
Your dictionary can give you the necessary clues. What you do with them depends on you. Here is an example of the way you can pick up the trail by noting all the clues. Suppose that "Paul Revere" is a new name to you. He might be a character in a story or someone living today or an important person from the past or an imaginary figure like Jack Frost.
Revere Paul, 1735-1818, American patriot and silversmith famous for his midnight ride to Lexington, Mass., to warn the colonists that the British troops were coming.
You realize right away that he was a real person because the dates of his birth and death are given at the beginning of the entry. Since he rode to give warning to colonists, he must have done it before the Americans won the Revolutionary War. Now you know that he was important in American history about that time, so there will be more information about him in a social studies or history book or in an encyclopedia. Or the library may have a book about him in the biography section.
If you look up Aegean, the trail leads to an atlas.
If you look up boron, you head for a chemistry book.
If you look up mousse, you may find you need a cookbook.
Learn to use your dictionary as a reference book in two directions. Then you will really get the most from it.
A correct pronunciation is one commonly used by educated people. This dictionary shows at least one correct pronunciation for each word listed. It does not show pronunciations typical of uneducated people.
If educated people all sounded alike, there would be only one correct pronunciation for each word. They don't, as you can discover by listening to them carefully on television. A person brought up in one region usually sounds a little different from those brought up in other regions. Though we can usually understand people from England, Scotland, Ireland, or Australia, they sound rather strange to us. And even one educated person will probably pronounce a word one way if he says it slowly by itself and another if he says it rapidly as part of a sentence. Let him see her as a rapid sentence may sound like /let-im-se-ur/ or /let-am-se-ar/, but the four words spoken slowly and separately are pronounced /let/, /him/, /se/, /hur/. All these pronunciations are correct, though this dictionary does not show many rapid forms.
How does a dictionary arrive at correct pronunciations? Its editors listen to and record the speech of educated people everywhere in the English-speaking world. They choose and put in the dictionary the most common pronunciation they hear.
The dictionary does not make a pronunciation. No law makes it. No school makes it. Educated people talking make it. The dictionary simply shows the way they commonly talk.
This dictionary shows sounds by a system of simple symbols made up of plain letters, letters with special marks over them, and stress marks, a system much more regular and accurate than ordinary spellings. There is a full key to these symbols in the front of the book, and at the bottom of every right-hand page there is a short key showing the symbols not already familiar to you. For each symbol a short, common key word shows the sound in use. These key words let the system adjust itself so as to cover many differences in pronunciation, especially those that are geographical. For example, the dictionary shows [ar'e] as the pronunciation
of airy. If you look up the symbol /a/ in the key, you find the key word care, showing that airy has the same vowel sound as care. Now some people have the a of marry in care; some have the e of merry; and some have a third sound. No matter how care is pronounced by educated people in your region, the vowel sound of airy is the same as that of care. Though people in other regions may differ, the vowel sound of airy is the vowel sound of care for them, too. This is how the key adjusts itself to educated speech in different regions. There is no single correct way to pronounce care and other words with the same vowel.
Sometimes more than one pronunciation has to be given. In some places blouse is pronounced [blous]; in others [blouz]. Both are shown in this dictionary. In some places dew and due are pronounced like do as [doo]. In other places they are sounded [dyoo]. This dictionary shows these by a single set of symbols, [d(y)oo], the parentheses indicating the (y) can either be sounded or be left out, whichever is customary where you come from. Any symbol in parentheses in a pronunciation may be sounded or omitted as seems comfortable to you.
Now let us take some classes of sounds which are replaced by variants in some parts of the country. Though these variants are acceptable, for reasons of space they are not shown in the dictionary proper.
1. /a/ as in palm is the same sound as o in odd neither in most of the United States but not in New England nor in Britain.
2. /a/ as in care has in some places the same sound as e in merry, and in other places it has the sound of a in marry.
3. /6/ as in drder is the usual vowel sound for all words like call, hall, awful, and law, but many educated people use /a/, as in palm, for all these words.
4. /i/ as in it is the vowel sound for words like here, near, mere, and bier, but many speakers use a sound closer to /e/ in even.
5. /e/ as in even is the vowel sound at the end of words like city, happy, and candy, but many speakers use a sound closer to /i/ in it.
6. /ur/ as in burn in various parts of the country has too many different sounds for a dictionary to list. You can sometimes tell where a person grew up from the way he says words like bird, herd, curd, yearn, and word.
1. /r/ before a consonant or at the end of a word, as in barn, hard, poor, and sir, has many accepted pronunciations and in parts of New England and the South may have no sound at all. This dictionary might properly have shown this /r/ in parentheses, though it does not.
Other variants are not geographical, happen anywhere, and seem to be a matter of personal choice. The word economics is a good example. Some well-known people pronounce it as [ek'a-nom'iks], and others as well known pronounce it as [e'ka-nom'iks]. Some people pronounce the state of Nevada as [na-vad'g] and others call it [na-va'da]. In such instances this dictionary gives both pronunciations, and of course either is correct.BACK