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Dictionary of the Future    by Faith Popcorn & Adam Hanft order for
Dictionary of the Future
by Faith Popcorn
Order:  USA  Can
Theia, 2001 (2001)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have always enjoyed books on words, from Ambrose Bierce's light-hearted Devil's Dictionary or Norman Solomon's The Power of Babble, to Noam Chomsky's more serious views on the evolution of language. The authors of Dictionary of the Future offer a 'speak preview' and see themselves as 'linguistic prospectors and anticipators'. In many cases they offer the Internet URL's for the places where they did their digging as prospectors, and they also offer terms that they themselves 'manufactured' in their role as anticipators. They do the latter to fill voids in the language, just as Shakespeare, 'that unrepentant serial coiner', did in his time.

Dictionary entries are organized into themes from Aging to Transportation. The most intriguing (to me) category was Biology and Biotechnology, with its window into where medicine and gene manipulation might take us. Nanoprobes which 'will circulate in our bodies and perform a range of activities, from detecting illness and performing, miraculous cell-by-cell surgery, to dispensing drugs and removing toxins, ...' is one example. The Internet theme is also very interesting, with words like Netlag (expecting the world to move as fast as the net), Esearch (online research), and 'Give us a click' supplanting 'Give us a call' in communication.

Some terms speak for themselves ... Age Rage, Elderweds, Kidfluence, Indigenization, Cybrarians, Celliquette, Scarevoyance, or (my favorite) Voice-Jail. I'd like to try items such as Bamboo flooring, Reverse Geometry lenses (which would correct vision as you sleep), Risotto-to-go, or the Tyrian wine variety designed for Australian conditions. And I'm afraid that I may occasionally suffer from difficulties like Dropping Packets, Reader's Block or Sarchasm. Then there are gems like Combat Hapkido (martial arts for the elderly) and Waki, armpit art from Japan, which sound both peculiar and probable.

Dictionary of the Future lays out an interaction between language and evolving culture - of interest to writers of near-future speculative fiction, to investors and innovators, or to anyone curious about what lies ahead of us. So if you're looking for a dictionary, skip the other twenty or so thousand of them and pick this 'garden of ideas'; it's colorful, thought-provoking and fun.

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