January 04, 2006

The Missing Voice

On page 1165 of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1971), one of the guide words at the top of the page is "inner voice". But there is no entry in the dictionary for "inner voice".

A simple error? Was an entry planned and then deleted, the guide word inadvertently retained? Or is it a message, a distress signal from some despairing, lonely dictionary editor, a pounding on the wall of his cell for anyone at all who might hear?

What were his days like, scribbling definitions in a cramped, crabbed hand on blue–lined index cards and declining his colleagues’ lunch invitations? Through what narrow twilit streets of Springfield, Mass., did he make his way toward the basement apartment where he cooked frozen dinners and read the American Journal of Psychoanalysis? Sipping sherry through the evening and jotting interesting usages on torn scraps of brown paper bags?

I hear you, fictitious lonely despairing lexicographer of 1971!