On October 16, we sing happy birthday to Noah Webster and celebrate Dictionary Day. It’s one of the most widely used reference books of all time. There’s most likely a dictionary somewhere in your home.
Granted, it’s probably being misused as a scratching pad for your cat. Today is the day to fetch this book of words and relegate it to a place of honor because without the dictionary, you may never have learned to spell cat.
Webster, a teacher during the post-Revolutionary war era, was irked by the use of British terms and spellings in pupils’ textbooks. Determined to impart knowledge of American English, he produced three volumes of text.
Because of its azure cover, one volume was commonly referred to as the blue-backed speller. For a century after its production, this handy little book taught children how to spell, read and pronounce words. Years later, when Webster’s dictionary was produced, all traces of the British vernacular had been obliterated.
As evidenced on social media and other places around the Web, we are in need of Webster’s writings. If he could read the botched sentence structure, omission of punctuation and misspelling, our father of language would balk at today’s butchered grammar.
Some may blame technology for our grammatical complacency. However, those who are slaves to their mobile devices have no excuse. Two centuries later, Mr. Webster, your work has evolved – there’s an app for that.
Noah Webster was born in 1758. We’ll need a colossal-sized cake to support the candles and to share a slice with all who’ve benefited from knowledge he made possible – courtesy of the blue-backed speller.
Celebrate Dictionary Day by dusting off this treasure and sharing a toast of thanks to the man who brought us guide words, definitions, pronunciation and a handy cheat for winning those Scrabble matches.