August 28, 2015


To most people, a dictionary is just a book for providing proper spellings and definitions. For those who have creative imaginations, dictionaries can also be the source of interesting word associations. How can that be? Let me show you.

As I pondered the phrase "above reproach", I wondered what was above "reproach" in the dictionary. I grabbed my Webster's New World Portable Large Print Dictionary and saw that "reprisal" was directly above it on the page.

It seems to me that an interesting story could be developed from that juxtaposition. Could a character repay somebody's wicked deed in a way that would be above reproach? Or are all reprisals reproachable?

Further searches found that the "godless" are above the "godly". That's certainly how it seems in our world today.

Here's another humorous juxtaposition. "."Water buffalo is under "water". Somebody better rescue that poor animal before it drowns.

I  also discovered that "zest" is below "zero". No wonder skiing and other winter sports are so popular.

A "Break-in" is after "breakfast". Somebody better tell the police that. It would help them greatly to know when the crooks will commit their crimes.

In addition to this type of fun, you can look at the headings at the top of adjacent pages and come up with interesting or humorous writing prompts. In my dictionary, I found "plutocrat" and "poker" as headings. It's easy to in visage how a few rich and powerful characters could gamble with a business venture to oppose other rich and powerful players.

My favourite heading combination is "morbid" "mother-in-law". A wide range of stories could be inspired by that combination of headings. The mother-in-law could be living with a married couple and continually warns them about risks to their lives. Or she might live alone but be calling her son or daughter with dire predictions.

I also composed an electronic music tune and called it "Discursive Disparity" after the heading words on one dictionary page. Sadly, nobody has remarked about what a clever title it is to me.

If you ever find yourself in a creative dry spell, try exploring your dictionary. Inspiration might strike when you least expect it.



  1. Thanks for these fun ideas Bruce

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  3. I do enjoy a good laugh on a Friday, Bruce. Thanks! I will now always look at the words above and below the one I need to check in the Dictionary.

  4. Thanks for a good chuckle, Bruce. Leave it up to you to be the one to read a dictionary for fun! Signed 'a not so morbid mother-in-law!"

  5. You have one of the most creatively twisted brains I know. I will look at the dictionary with a much different view from now on! Brilliant. :)

  6. I never thought of using the dictionary as an inspiration for writing. And a very funny post. Thanks Bruce.

  7. Bruce, we can always count on you to help us see something new, something fun. Thanks!

  8. We play piano and trombone. We play soccer and baseball. Why can't we play writing? Sometimes we can be too serious about writing. Thanks for sharing some playful ways to find writing prompts.


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