Following our trip to the O2 Exhibition, we are spending some time reading and writing about the Titanic. The wreck was discovered by sonar equipment and I was trying to explain the difference between sonar and echolocation - is there one? Out came out our trusty Oxford Dictionary, leading me on a pleasant rabbit trail:
"Sonar: a system of detecting objects underwater by reflected or emitted sounds."
(Aha! no swimming bats!)
"Echolocation: the location of objects by means of the echo reflected from them by a sound-signal."
In the next column was,
"Edam: a spherical Dutch cheese, usually pale yellow in colour with a red rind."
I don't know why, but this struck me as a soothing and strangely poetic collection of words. I repeated it a few times for effect.
Back across the page to "Eclair: a finger-shaped cake of choux pastry filled with cream and iced." Succinct and elegant, everything I love about dictionary entries.
My son suggested I look it up in the red (Chambers) dictionary, so "Eclair: a cake, long in shape but short in duration, with cream filling and chocolate icing." A joke! In a dictionary! What a lovely, hidden surprise.
And underneath, "Eclaircissement: the act of clearing up a midunderstanding; explanation."
Eclair, eclairissement: cake and understanding - essential to life.