Look it Up

23 Jan

When I wanted to know the definition of a word, I would ask my parents, “What is the definition of…” and then the word. My parents would say, “Look it Up.” For example, I wanted to know what “Thou” was really used for, so they said, “Look it up.” The old beat up dictionary with a short proper name definitions in the back would come out and I’d sit it in my lap or on a table and leaf through. I’d find the word, and announce it. Occasionally they really didn’t know and would say so. If I stumbled my mom would insist, “Sound it out.” Which only with my knowledge now can see how much folly it is to say that. She would sound it out with me if I really got stuck.

This was also their answer to something if I wanted to know what something was. So if I wanted to know what a kiwi bird was, I’d have to pull out the index of the huge Britannica or the Compton’s encyclopedia. The order was always the smaller one, then I’d announce I couldn’t find it or that it wasn’t very long at all. I hated actually looking anything. It was tedious, and I liked to skip ahead. If those smaller volumes didn’t have it, then I would have to go to the Index of the Britannica. Then go to the Micropedia section, look in there. When I didn’t find it in there, they would help me with the Macropedia. These volumes were huge and I still remember their weight on my small body and how heavy they were to lift. It was literally physically and mentally demanding in the wrong ways that I hated the process.

Occasionally, I would leaf through the index of cute dogs, horses and cats because Compton’s had and try to memorize the breeds. I found out the breeds of the dogs in the cartoons. For example, Lady and the Tramp, had a mutt, a English Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Bloodhound. I figured out that my Aunt’s Horse was a Thoroughbred. And then try to figure out the cats, and read all of the entry.

I spent so much time looking through those pictures and laboring through looking through the volumes, I was kind of sad to find that when I came back home my parents had given the volumes away. Though it was for the child, bitter memories of having to pull large volumes in her arms and then sort through them, scan through the passages, and so on, it still well… as like my parents would like to say, “Built character.”

These days I’ve already looked it up when they say, “Look it up.” And then they are forced to usually say, “I don’t know.” I’ve learned through this that there is a lot they don’t know, even if they are MIT graduates.

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