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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Dictionaries and Other Word References

RANDOM HOUSE WEBSTER'S WORD MENU by Stephen Glazier ($25.00, paperback, 800 pages, Random House Reference, ISBN: 0375700838) MASSMARKET PAPERBACK

This is an essential reference work for all writers. Its utility and versatility will make it a major resource for building a general word-stock and for investigating the vocabularies of specialized fields of knowledge.

The explosion of knowledge and information in the second half of the twentieth century has been the catalyst of enormous social and technological changes. Since language is an ever evolving reflection of these changes, lexicons too should reflect them. Yet until now the most recent classification system for language is Roget’s thesaurus, published in 1852.

Not only has the English language evolved to keep pace with new technology and cultural growth, but the way we think has changed as well. Our approach to work and learning in the high speed age of the computer cannot always accommodate the more patient, intellectual approach of the past. There are times when we want our information quickly, in bite size chunks, and times when we cannot afford the luxury of searching through disparate sources to find the information we need. The average person today is forced to be a narrow specialist, with only a smattering of knowledge about other subjects, which are often difficult and unfamiliar. Making sense of our complex existence is a daunting task.

In keeping with this task, the Random House Webster’s Word Menu conceived and created by the late Stephen Glazier and produced over a period of eight years, presents an entirely new classification system for language and information Its goal is to help bring the expanding, multilayered world of the late twentieth century into clearer focus by creating a framework for ordering the mass of information that is constantly bombarding us. This framework is in the form of a structure that allows users to find information with ease in any of hundreds of different subjects and areas of interest.

A hierarchical structure is familiar to most users of the standard thesaurus: it goes from the general to the specific, from the idea or subject to particular words, from the whole to the parts. But whereas the structure of the standard thesaurus is based on philosophical categories such as "Abstract Relations" "Space," "Matter," and "Volition" the structure of this book is but on natural, contemporary categories and logical relations among not just concepts, but things. Thus the seven major classes in our structure are everyday subjects: Nature, Science and Technology, Domestic Life, Institutions, Arts and Leisure, Language, and the Human Condition.
Nature as a Body, Living Things, and The Earth.
The Earth, in turn, is broken down into five categories: Geology; Geography; Minerals, Metals, and Rocks; Landscapes and Seascapes, and Weather and Natural Phenomena.
Each of these categories is then divided into subcategories, such as under Landscapes and Seascapes: Hills, Hollows, and Valleys; Plains and Marshes, Woods and Brush; Inland Waterways and Lakes; and Coastal Land, Islands, and the Sea.

Another important difference between this book and the standard thesaurus is that while the latter deals with common synonyms and antonyms, this book is concerned with words related by subject i.e., with the vocabulary or terminology of hundreds of different areas of knowledge or activity. While the editors include under certain categories numerous synonyms and antonyms, these are subordinate to the purpose of this book, which is to provide information about words in a manner that is not found in any standard thesaurus or dictionary.
For example this book contains much information that is usually found in encyclopedias and almanacs, such as the Nations of the World, each with its capital, area in square miles, population number, language, major religion, and currency; the names and descriptions of all the Christian denominations and sects; major world cities; States of the United States; annual national and religious holidays; military ranks; names and functions of government departments; list of common abbreviations; and so on.

Finally, this work differs from the standard thesaurus because it discriminates among its entries with far greater precision, offering definitions of the words it identifies.

The author did not intend this work to replace the usual thesaurus or dictionary. Like a dictionary, it includes thousands of definitions, but it is not a general dictionary The Random House Webster’s Word Menu is quite different from either a dictionary or a thesaurus, and it is precisely this unique quality that makes it so useful as a companion to these standard references.

The book is designed to be a language tool as well as a creativity tool. As a language tool, it serves the`functions of: a reverse dictionary, for finding a word when one knows only the meaning or definition; a thesaurus of related terms, organized by category or subject matter and with entries defined in a dictionary: a collection of diverse glossaries, for learning the terminology of an unfamiliar field or for learning to use technical terms correctly.

As a creativity tool, the books logical structure and word associations can assist in brainstorming, aid in preliminary research help overcome creative blocks or memory lapses, and provide a source of words for enlivening everything one writes. We hope that users will also browse through the pages to expand their knowledge and vocabulary as well as for entertainment.

Stephen Glazier created this book as a reference tool for busy writers like himself. All the organizing and defining of terms is done for them. The internal logic and easy associations of the classification system allow them to know instantly where to look for an unknown word in one of the nearly 800 categories and subcategories. The range of subjects, the concise, telegraphic definitions, and the contemporary format offer not only a resource for serious writers but a natural way to build vocabulary, help to solve crossword puzzles or to win at word games, or add vigor and variety to any piece of writing.

PART ONE: Nature, The Human Body, Living Things, The Earth
PART TWO: Science and Technology, The Sciences, Technology, Transportation
PART THREE: Domestic Life, The Home, The Family, Eating, Clothing
PART FOUR: Institutions, Social Order, The Economy, Social Sciences
PART FIVE: Arts and Leisure, Fine Arts and Leisure, Performing Arts, Applied Arts, Leisure and Recreation
PART SIX: Language Structure and Usage, Action and Sense Words, Common Expressions, Foreign Expressions
PART SEVEN: The Human Condition, Character and Behavior, Cognition, The Dark Side, Faith

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