So-called alternative dictionaries usually focus on either specialties of language—such as rhymes and literary terms that only graduate students will ever use—or the literal meanings of slang. (The largest purveyor of these, urbandictionary.com, has more than 7 million entries.) But whereas Urban Dictionary attracts the under-25 crowd, this collection of words will especially appeal to those who have lived long enough to know the open secrets of language.
Eschewing lexical definitions for connotations gleaned by experience, the author reads between the lines to describe “fatalism,” for example, as “acceptance that does not practice prevention,” and “thinking” as “what sometimes takes more courage than action does.” Some of the most finely nuanced entries read more as meditations on a concept than as a definition: 30 facets of “time” are described, and “fear” offers 19, ranging from the comically cynical (“1. principal reason for respect of the law”) to the quietly tragic (“8. what nature intended to be our guardian but all too often becomes our jailer”). Of course, you’d no more read this cover to cover than you would a Merriam-Webster, but unlike with that stalwart of the English language, you can dip into Dyspeptic Definitions for fun. Read a few aloud to a friend and you’ll share a knowing, if rueful, laugh at human nature. Some definitions will wait on the page for the occasion to be looked up. Surprised by rain? Look up “Weather forecaster” to be reminded that the job title is “one whose credibility depends on the public not remembering his forecast for the day before.” Still another approach is for the reader is to follow a thread on, say, “belief.” Radović’s interpretations of related ideas like “fairy tales,” “ideology,” “truth,” “myth,” “blinders,” and “facts” suggest his sensibility as a writer, a U.N. retiree and Iron Curtain escapee.
This book will find its audience among the philosophically inclined, word-lovers, and those in their middle to late years (who may recognize “attire” as “garments that display the body in youth, and disguise it later on”). With all due respect to Oxford, which defines “dyspeptic” as “suffering from indigestion or irritability,” this dictionary provides much more food for thought.
Igor D. Radovic
Igor D. Radovic