O brave new
Ilan J. Kernerman
Miranda O, wonder !
How many goodly creatures are there
How beauteous mankind is !
O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t !
‘T is new to thee.
(W. Shakespeare, The Tempest,
Act V. Scene I.)
When I began working in dictionaries in the early
1990s, our prime concern was the advent of English as a lingua franca—ELF
(also here by Levine)—and its forthcoming consequences, for everyone
to now learn and use worldwide, in hoped-for equilibrium with their
native language. This trend has indeed evolved, with critical impacts
and interactions of various sorts.
Meantime, while we were snoozing, within that arguable globalization
process—disseminating communication and information, grinding all into
ubiquitous uniformity and mediocrity—other languages have also been
awakening to each other and to themselves. Although ELF is
champion—simultaneously and complementarily—it has become necessary and
easier to create dictionaries for unorthodox language pairs, as well as to
reach and explore—and sometimes even safeguard and enhance—any language
With growing direct contact between languages not involving English, there
are more trilingual and multilingual persons who want bilingual dictionaries
without English, or dictionaries with two or more languages and ELF as an
underlying bridge. Their quality might be painstaking to start with, but
improvement usually follows suit. One way or another, soon you will be able
to get any kind of dictionary, and via modern magic—be it wi-fi,
broadband, cellphone—virtually anyhow, anywhere, anytime.
Some forecasts—like teasingly or skeptically by Esposito—warn against
the ill effects of such bliss on the traditional business of dictionary
making. Yet, life forever intermingles so-called good with bad, bad
with good, counter-running contradictions in cohabitation, bringing
all together and centralizing, whilst breaking farther apart into atoms,
quarks, and who knows what next. So, big feed on small, the small disappear,
yet big transform too. Giants come and go, while little men and women
bear on. Change is—as Prospero might say—“such stuff as dreams are made
of”. You can tickle the Establishment, but the Establishment never goes
away; its characters may be replaced but the roles remain.
Dictionaries pertain to civilized society, with an aim to confine the
lawless jungle into order and fairness. How sad when they succumb to this
very same jungle law, such as the recent change in Random House, which meant
a mortal blow and terrible loss. On the other hand, I cannot lament the fate
awaiting—according to Esposito—whichever legacy dictionary publisher
whose so-called quality is undermined by a big name. The defamed Microsoft
dictionaries might—eventually, if not yet—not be worse than theirs.
Sadly, established brand names are often something to beware
of (so no surprise if sacred-cow slaughter becomes a global sport).
When their originality has evaporated long ago, big names are liable
to get fat and preoccupied with self-preservation and enforcing monopoly,
then impede the advance of new spirits whom they copy. That this seems
not a trait of dictionaries, but of humankind.
K Dictionaries Ltd
10 Nahum Street, Tel Aviv 63503 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 fax: 972-3-5468103