Brevity makes for more words

The University of Chicago Spanish Dictionary. Fifth edition

November 29, 2002

This, the latest edition of The University of Chicago's compact Spanish dictionary and the first update in 15 years, offers improvements in both format and coverage. It is aimed specifically at users of American English and this is reflected in the pronunciation guide and the lexical items.

Entries are clear and uncluttered, in part due to generous line spacing and the inclusion of only a minimum of additional information beyond grammatical function and contextual phrases.

However, such economy can present problems. For example, irregular verbs are itemised in the grammar sections, but there is no marker in the entries to identify them and tell the user to consult the tables.

Some entries are also excessively brief: " siniestro ", for example, is defined as "sinister" and "disaster", but there is no mention of "accident" or "left-handed". There are also some omissions: the Spanish for "trunk" (car boot) is given as " maletero " (or, usefully, " cajuela " in Mexico), but the Spanish-English section has no entry for " maletero ".

Although one might challenge the translations of some of the expletives, the coverage of slang is often good - not many compact dictionaries deal with "drop-dead" (beautiful/gorgeous) or "bungee jumping" (" el puénting "), for instance. The same can be said of the coverage of everyday modern technology and science (IT, electronics, science, medicine and so on).

Compact dictionaries are always a compromise. As there is no indication of how many headwords or entries this dictionary contains, potential buyers will find comparison with similar reference volumes difficult. In general use, it does a basic job quite well, but the economical entries and gaps might lead to frustration over time.

Francis Lough is senior lecturer in Spanish, University of Kent at Canterbury.

The University of Chicago Spanish Dictionary. Fifth edition

Author - David Pharies
ISBN - 0 226 66688 3 and 66689 1
Publisher - University of Chicago Press
Price - £19.50 and £8.00
Pages - 586

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