-Ologies & -Isms is a dictionary that, on four counts, deserves the qualifier unusual. Its lexicon is drawn mainly from words ending in one of four suffixes, its organizing principle is thematic as well as alphabetic, it concludes with a unique index, and it is intended primarily for those who seek assistance in using the resources of libraries.
Each of these novelties deserves a fuller explanation.
We have all had wide experience in using standard dictionaries, but our familiarity with alphabetization from the left somewhat obscures the fact that much of our knowledge and information has been categorized through terms ending in a few very active suffixes. For example, our scientific and systematic areas of analysis are described in a few hundred words ending in -ology or -ics, as psychology or physics. The multitude of English words denoting theories, doctrines, systems, attitudes, or practices end chiefly in (Greek) -ism or (Latin-French) -ity, as in pessimism or urbanity. The core of the specialized word list that is -Ologies & -Isms consists of nouns ending in -ologies, -ities, -isms, and -ics and their forms in other parts of speech; for example, among the more than 3,000 words defined, there are 1,261 words ending with -ism or -ist, 42 ending with -ity, 463 with -ology, and 150 with -ic or -ics. A selection of 1,168 terms end in -graphy, -metry, -philia, -mancy, and 24 other suffixes. The lexicon contains, in addition, 248 -phobia terms, the greatest number currently in print.
The content of -Ologies & -Isms renders it a lexicographical pantology (which see), and its arrangement of entries and definitions by thematic categories gives it a remarkable utility.
Thematic dictionaries are not, in themselves, novel, for many wordhoards restricted to terms in science, art, or technology have previously been both successful and useful. But the use of a thematic design in a brief lexicon of learned words covering a multiplicity of areas is a radical innovation. Such an approach makes unnecessary long periods of searching for an appropriate term in a standard dictionary, Inclusion, for instance, of the term bathygraphy in the category SEA will obviate a fruitless search in a standard dictionary among terms beginning with ocean-. Moreover, because terms often fit simultaneously in a variety of categories, -Ologies & -Isms includes cross references to other categories and to other terms.
The usefulness of -Ologies & -Isms is further enhanced by its unique alphabetical index. Its design enables the book to refer the reader to a category rather than to a page, and therefore permits this reference work to distinguish denotations by category, as for example the philosophical as against the political meaning of pluralism. Under this plan, the reader will more readily locate the specific definition he seeks.
As a tool for persons researching or about to initiate research in indexes, bibliographies, and other reference works, -Ologies & -Isms will be valuable because of several additional features. It first of all provides definitions which act as foundations for the gathering of broader and deeper information, especially in unfamiliar material. It also contains terms to be found in older scholarly works, terms of the archaic, obsolete, or rare varieties often omitted from current dictionaries. Moreover, it provides both variant spellings and alternate names of terms and, especially where such forms are unusual or various, other parts of speech developed from the entry word. Thus, for instance, for the term describing a tendency to uncontrolled bleeding, hemophilia, the reader will note an alternate spelling (haemophilia), an alternate term (hemorrhaphilia), and the noun or adjectival form hemophiliac.
We trust that the attempt, in -Ologies & -Isms, to design an unusual reference work of the utmost utility will promote the pleasure and satisfaction of its users.
Howard G. Zettler
Essex, ConnecticutDecember 1977