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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful collection of glossaries for your reference shelf, 26 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Descriptionary (Facts on File Writer's Library) (Paperback)
I know that "Descriptionary" sells itself as "A Thematic Dictionary," but really for my money it is a collection of glossaries. I used it to fill some gaps for my Popular Culture class with regards to Film and Television, and my Classical Mythology class as well. I also find "Descriptionary" useful for some basic vocabulary when I am off exploring some new tangent such as Buddhism, Probate Law, Swords, and Cats. Being able to find all those words in one place is very useful. I can read all about what hairstyles were worn in the 19th Century for insight into a historical novel or whatever I am reading any given week. The book also has 1,050 Words and Expressions You Should Know which is basically a vocabulary building section that could last you a couple of years if you did one a day for the foreseeable future.
This volume is part of the Facts on File: Writer's Library and there are certain word lists that could be quite useful to a writer. For example, there is a section on World War II Slang that breaks down into the categories of not just Army, Navy and Marines but also Nurses, WACS, and Australian Soldiers (no clue why only the Aussies are so privileged). There are also details sections on clothing in terms of Ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval England and France, and the 16th through 20th centuries. So check out the table of contents and see how many of these sections can be useful to you in your particular line of work. I certainly use it more often than I do my dictionary (mainly because of my magic spellchecker, admittedly, but that does not take away from the reference uses of this volume).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's on the tip of my tongue..., 22 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Descriptionary (Facts on File Writer's Library) (Paperback)
De.scrip.tion.ary, n., a big book of words arranged in a common sense order designed to help the reader find an unknown word.
Similar to dictionary and thesaurus, with key differences.
Many times, people have the word just on the tip of their tongues, but cannot find the word. Dictionaries are often no help in such instances. Despite the wealth of information contained therein, and the imminently logical organisation (the same goes for a thesaurus), often what is needed is more of a reverse directory. Indeed, comedians past and present have made entire routines out of the difficulties of using a dictionary (how does one look up the spelling of a word if one doesn't know how to spell it?). While these difficulties have doubtless been exaggerated, there is definitely room on the reference shelf for a book such as the Descriptionary, a wonderful resource for finding just the right word from a definition.
`A standard dictionary will tell you the meaning of a word, a thesaurus will give you a list of synonyms, but only Descriptionary directs you straight to the word itself.'
The Descriptionary is arranged thematically. These themes are developed and arranged by broad category, narrowing the field of research for any given word search. Under each broad theme, there are literally thousands of words. The definitions are not lengthy, but just of sufficient length to permit identification.
- Animals and Insects
- Architecture
- Clothing
- Electronics
- Environment
- Finance
- Food and Drink
- Human Body and Mind
- Language
- Law
- Magic and the Occult
- Medicine
- Military
- Music
- Occupations
- Performing Arts
- Religions
- Sports
- Tools
- Transportation
- Weapons
However, thousands of words per category would still make for a daunting task of location of just the right word. Therefore, each major theme is broken into smaller sections, and yet smaller subsections. Take, for instance, the organisation under the heading Religions:
Religions
..Ancient Religions
....Ancient Egyptian Worship
....Greek and Roman Mythology
....Monsters and Fabulous Creatures
..Modern Religions
....Buddhism
....Christianity
....Hinduism
....Islam
....Judaism
Perhaps it will be your dharma to forget the term for enlightenment (under Buddhism, nirvana), or perhaps your searching requires some cutting edge information (under Judaism, see mohel). You needn't be gifted in speaking in tongues (glossolalia, under Christianity) to find the right word here.
Each subsection contains a few hundred words, which makes the Descriptionary very useful for looking up related and relevant terms in any area. Rather than having to fumble through a dictionary for hoped-for connexions based on definitions, one has in one compact list all of the major terminology for each category and subcategory. In very few dictionaries would one be able to find the connexions between the words ablation, drift, horn, striation, and trimline (they all have to do with glaciers).
The index is wonderful for pinpointing the multiple uses of words. For instance, the word ace has multiple meanings, including one definition under Performing Arts and no fewer than five different meanings under Sports. This book will help one to ace the understanding.
Following the main part of the Descriptionary is a section entitled `1050 words and expressions you should know'. The author has here compiled a listing of 'big' words and phrases that turn up on a fairly regular basis in such media as Time, Newsweek, and broadcast news. These are fairly common words that are often misunderstood. The literate may wonder that so many common and 'easy' words are included here; they are, unfortunately, included because of the current state of education -- so many high school and even college graduates lack a working literate vocabulary. However, it does the scholar's ego good -- there was not one word or phrase among the 1050 that was unfamiliar to me.
This is an American book. The definitions and descriptions definitely assume the American derivative of English. Under Sports, for instance, there is both football and soccer descriptions, but no cricket. However, Sports does get considerable play by including everything from archery to windsurfing to bullfighting to thoroughbred racing.
We each of us have our blind spots in education, and the Descriptionary, by pulling the key vocabulary of each field together in a brief and succinct manner, serves to provide a ready reference 'cheat sheet' to understanding the major points of almost any popular topic. The author, Marc McCutcheon, is a freelance author, perhaps best known for his work on 'Roget's Super Thesaurus' and 'The Facts On File Student Thesaurus'. A talented and experienced wordsmith, McCutcheon's Descriptionary will help ensure you are never without the right word.
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Descriptionary (Facts on File Writer's Library)
Descriptionary (Facts on File Writer's Library) by Marc McCutcheon (Paperback - 31 Dec 2000)
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