I imagine that those of my readers who are, like me, inveterate buyers of foreign-language dictionaries have run across the products of Hippocrene Books. First off, I would like to inform you that the good people at Hippocrene pronounce the name in the classical fashion, which is to say in four syllables (rhyming with “meanie”). How do I know this? I know because some years ago I was so put out by the poor quality of their concise Georgian dictionary (no longer, thankfully, in print) that I wrote them a scathing letter on the subject. Imagine my surprise when instead of a frigid dismissal (or, more likely, a resounding silence) I received an invitation to do better, and a suggestion to visit the Hippocrene offices if I was interested. I did so, and learned that they will basically publish any dictionary you submit, subject only to your acceptance of their derisory financial arrangements. (This means that the quality ranges from excellent to abysmal; caveat emptor.) As it happens, I had been putting together an English-Georgian word list for my own use (since no such thing was available), and I thought about taking them up on their offer. Eventually I decided against it—not so much because I didn’t actually know Georgian (I knew I could do better than the existing book, and looked forward to creating a practical and compendious system of presenting the basic verb forms) as because it would be too damn much work.
But I digress. The point is that Hippocrene publishes an incredible array of dictionaries, from Afrikaans to Yoeme (a language I had never heard of), and increasing at a manic pace (surely Zulu can’t be far behind), though occasionally retrogressing (apparently my tiny Yoruba dictionary is no longer available). This means that every time I go to a bookstore I risk being presented with an offer I can’t refuse, no matter how fervently I wish to limit further encroachments on my absurdly overstrained bookshelves. Today I found no fewer than four dictionaries of whose existence I had no inkling. I managed to resist the Galician and Highlander Polish (though the latter was so recondite as to be tempting)—they looked a little too slapdash for my taste, and the languages are close enough to Portuguese and Polish respectively that I thought I could do without them. I could not, however, say no to the Kyrgyz and the Sorbian. Yes, Sorbian; my multiple posts on the subject put me in a position where I could hardly pass up a dictionary. And to think that when I was growing up you were lucky to find materials on anything beyond French, Spanish, and German…


  1. You are not alone in your Sorbianism. I have a great Sorbian-German dictionary (in Gothic lettering ;), that I found on the infamous first floor of the HUJI library… I could not find any texts, though. I didn’t look at Berkeley, maybe I should. If you have something, or bibliography, please share 🙂

  2. Hi Language Hat,

    You’re probably aware of it, but here it goes anyway: translators like to shop at Grant and Cutler for specialist dictionaries.

  3. The Hungarian-English dictionary, though small, is apparently very good. I’ll let you know what I encounter as I study the language this term.

    Many of their Slavic dictionaries are to avoided like the plague, however, and their Armenian one is not to be touched because of copious errors. It’s nice to hear what you say about the way they work, though — it makes me think much better of them.

Speak Your Mind