Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Wackiest, Wildest Dictionary I Have EVER SEEN

I love 李開榮(hereafter to be refered to as LiKaiRong). It's a sick and twisted kind of love, but I can't help myself. I often think of him and wonder what colour the sky is in his world, and if he has categorized it as he has everything else in the world...

LiKaiRong is the author of Chinese-English Classified Encyclopedic Dictionary, which I picked up at the Taipei 101 Eslite a few years ago. Don't let the generic title fool you...this book is sick, it's addictive, and at only 200NT, it's a bargain at 10 times the price for hours upon hours of fun. For years upon years.

The Chinese-English Classified Encyclopedic Dictionary, or LiKaiRong's Extravaganza Bonanza as I like to call it, is 1657 pages of cagegorized lists of anything and everything you can imagine. The Table of Contents alone is 64 pages long. It's 3" thick, a literal brick of a book. Each page has roughly 75 words on it, so it's got about 125,000 words and phrases. It's not so much that it's a categorized dictionary, it's what he's categorized and how, something I could only imagine doing:
a)with a team of 100 plus biddable minions working around the clock for a year steady
b)on a permanent acid trip

Take, for example, one of my favorite lists in this book (although I'm constantly discovering new faves, I always come back to this one), "Minute Details of Daily life". Many of the entries are singularly bizarre. I don't know about your daily life routine, but mine is pretty boring and mundane, especially when juxtaposed to LiKaiRong's, who apparently does these things (and assumes the rest of us do as well?) on a daily basis:

walking(/running)unsteadily in a zigzag
dragging somebody along against his will
having a snowball fight
twitching the eyelid
feeling too ashamed to face people
pouting one's lips
hitting somebody on the right side of the head
giving presents to one's elders or superiors
itching all over
picking one's ears

and, my personal favorite (well, it was a toss-up between this one and "dragging somebody along against his will", which is certainly an activity I try to fit into my daily routine)...

hanging oneself

The above is just a sampling of the many puzzling activities on this list, but even more puzzling is the fact that the list does not solely consist of verbs or verb phrases, which you might assume it would. Maybe it's just me, but I see "details of daily life" as requiring an action (to achieve the repetition that "daily life" implies). But LiKaiRong thinks differently (understatement!), and includes nouns (bound feet, a pot of porridge, monstorous lie, wicked idea) and adjectives (careless;crude;coarse,foolish looking,crafty and evil), with a few random proverbs thrown in for good measure.

If you look at the Chinese characters, you see that he orders them by stroke order/radical, i.e. (一, 八, 大 小, 三, 上, 巴,etc.) but this still doesn't explain how most of these words or phrases a)came to mind or b)seemed remotely suitable. (I know many native Mandarin speakers, none of whom could have compiled this list, or the thousand others like it).

There are so, so many other lists in this book which I would like to call your attention to, but for now I must go....but should you want to buy a copy of this wonderful book, it is hardcover, a 5x7 brick 3" thick, with a red and blue (and green stripe at the top) jacket. Its Chinese name is 漢英百科分類詞典, and it was published by 萬人出版(tel:(02)298-0501), in 1996. Last seen in Eslite, but that was years ago. Please, somebody, find it. Buy it. Love it. I can't be the only one to appreciate this gem (well, maybe I can be, and indeed am, but I sincerly hope not and am fixing to start a fanclub as soon as I hear back from any of you soon-to-be converts!)

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