Does the bize-ness

The Penguin Dictionary of Geography. Third edition

May 28, 2004

This well-respected dictionary has been in print since 1985.

Like its excellent main competitor, Suzy Mayhew's Dictionary of Geography , it provides comprehensive short definitions across the discipline.

Some of the definitions are very short. A ferry port, for example, is "a port serving ferries". Others, particularly those dealing with more complex concepts (central place theory, for example), are about 300 words long. As in all dictionaries, some definitions appear bizarre. I noted "Panopticon - a term applied by the now-mummified Jeremy Bentham to prison buildings which allowed uninterrupted observation and surveillance of prisoners". There are also a large number of rather local terms, like " Badia - a terrain type in Jordan", " Bize - a cold French wind" and " Chine - a gully in the Isle of Wight". Then there is the problem of how many terms to include for different types of cloud, mineral, international agreement or remote-sensing system, which I am not convinced the author has got right.

Overall, however, the dictionary is well balanced and up to date. "GIS", "GPS", "Globalisation" and "Genetic modification" are there, together with "asylum seekers", "Kyoto conference" and "Postmodernism", although there are some curious omissions from physical geography.

It is, of course, very easy to spot holes, particularly if they relate to one's own specialisms, but this is not a big dictionary and geography is a rambling, acquisitive and fickle discipline. Pity the poor compiler who has to deal with a discipline that at one end includes, say, pension-fund capitalism (not included), and at the other, say, passive margins (also not included), and which lurches, like a slash-and-burn farmer (included), from one patch to another as fashion dictates. Audrey Clark has done a good job, and sixthformers and undergraduates will find this a handy vade mecum as they grapple with terms ranging from "Aa" to "Zymogenous".

Andrew Goudie is master of St Cross College, Oxford.

The Penguin Dictionary of Geography. Third edition

Author - Audrey N. Clark
Publisher - Penguin
Pages - 469
Price - £8.99
ISBN - 0 14 051505 4

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