Meet the “Dame of Dictionaries.”
“I read and read and read and read and read,” she says. In fifth grade, her parents gave her a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and that changed everything. “It unlocked the world for me because I could read at any vocabulary level I wanted,” she says, and went on to negotiate more sophisticated titles, like Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and The Frogs by Aristophanes. She was diligent about learning words, and would enter all the new ones she came across daily in a notebook. Then she would review them, trying to commit them to memory. The next day, she would add ten or fifteen more, review the words from the prior day, and at the end of each week review the entire week. She carried on this routine for years.”
Her West Village loft is home to 20,000 dictionaries, collected over a lifetime. She is the “Dame of Dictionaries,” Madeline Kripke. Daniel Krieger’s fine article about Kripke is peppered with links to dictionary lore. Read it here.