What’s there not to love about October? All the gorgeous backdrops of fall foliage offsetting rosy cheeks. All things pumpkin spice or apple spice waft in the air (no arguments here, whatever makes your taste buds do the Happy Fall dance). And crispy air strolls with crunchy leaves under feet give you an excuse for another cup of coffee. Or tea. Maybe even some hot cocoa. But even more than all of that is October 16th. Yes, I’m talking about National Dictionary Day. So, call me a nerd; I don’t care.
Why is October 16th National Dictionary Day?
In short, it’s the birth date of Noah Webster. Many Americans are unaware of Noah Webster’s role on the Christian History Timeline. But it’s so important as American Christians to know about him and his contributions to our country. So really, National Dictionary Day is just an excuse to tell you more about Noah Webster and give you a few resources (including a free printable) to help you teach your students more about this important historical figure.
Noah Webster, The Word Wonder
Although he was a rather humble man, history tells us, Mr. Noah Webster was a word wonder. In fact, he’s called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education.” So, I guess he was quite the nerd as well.
It took him twenty-one years to complete his Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. By the time it was published, he was seventy years old. What an inspirational individual!
And wonder of wonders, this man learned twenty-six languages in order to compile a comprehensive dictionary for the American people. He also went to the Bible to correctly define words. Why does this matter? Since God is Sovereign King, He is the Authority on what words mean. An example of this is the definition of marriage. You’ll see a correct, Biblical definition in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Whereas in modern dictionaries, well, you’re probably well aware of the secular definition of marriage in print. But do take a look for yourself to see the contrast between Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s definition of marriage.
Among the twenty-six languages that Noah Webster learned are:
- Old English (Anglo-Saxon)
Why is this important to know? Because the English language is heavily influenced by these. But the Greek and Hebrew especially helped Noah to correctly define the words by God’s standard.
Webster Streamlined Spelling
English gets a bad reputation for some of its spellings. Oh, but what a rich vocabulary we have in English because of the many different languages it pulls from.
As you learn about the history of English on the Christian History Timeline, you learn to see why some spelling is the way that it is. And then it begins to make sense. All one needs to do is learn the phonetic rules, for the most part. And sometimes the back story really helps with understanding it.
To help with this, Noah Webster streamlined the spelling of many words. You see, he thought that the complex rules for spelling English words weren’t really necessary. Websters1828Dictionary.com explains:
…his dictionary introduced American English spellings, replacing colour with color, substituting wagon for waggon, and printing center instead of centre. He also added American words, like skunk and squash, that did not appear in British dictionaries.
By the way, if you’re looking for a spelling curriculum, a super helpful spelling curriculum is Spell To Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri. She goes through the principles of phonetic spelling, the rules, and throughout the curriculum she explains why a rule is the way that it is.
Wonderful, Wonderful Words
Words are everywhere! They’re either being spoken out loud, tossed about in your own thoughts, being read, or even signed in sign language. Indeed, we live in a world of words!
Words help us shape ideas, understand concepts, communicate, and paint pictures in our minds. Needless to say, they help us to communicate more concisely the message we want to say. But it works both ways. We need to be learned in correctly defined words to be understood and to understand.
This is especially true for our nation as laws are written. If citizens are careful to read and define the language in laws for us to vote on, we can better reason Biblically as to whether or not it is a law to benefit us.
The Wisdom of Words
It may be obvious, but how many of us give much thought to the wisdom of words? God… in His wisdom, designed language. In fact, I propose that words are a part of His very nature and essence. Consider that He spoke the world into existence. Beyond that, He created mankind in His image. And as a part of that image bearing, we speak words, too.
To say nothing of the fact that language is to be a blessing and a tool for liberty. Our Founding Fathers and Noah Webster recognized these truths.
Noah Webster Homeschool Resources
Noah Webster and Dictionary Day Study
In honor of Dictionary Day, I have created a Noah Webster study with notebooking pages for your middle school and high school students. To download your free copy, enter your email below.
While you can use Webster’s 1828 Dictionary on-line, the on-line version doesn’t have all of the definitions in the bound book. Personally, I believe it a homeschooling travesty you don’t have a copy of the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828 Edition) on your bookshelf. It’s too easy for our students to “Google” for definitions. Doing so will leave them greatly lacking in the understanding of most words. Using a hardcopy dictionary may seem like a lost art (and truly, it is), but this is one area in which we needn’t cut corners too much.
Happy Dictionary Day! I hope you’ll take the time on this day (or any other day) to teach your students about Noah Webster and the power of words.
To learn more about Noah Webster, check out the resources below:
Noah Webster’s Advice to the Young and Moral Catechism by Noah Webster
Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef
Noah Webster: Master of Words by David R. Collins
Noah Webster: A Man Who Loved Words by Elaine Cunningham
Read the Dictionary by Isabel Proudfit
Here are a few picture books, if you’d like to bring your younger children into the lessons:
Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
Noah Webster’s Fighting Words by Tracy Nelson Maurer
Noah Webster: Weaver of Words by Pegi Shea
Learn more about the man in this Noah Webster Biography
Here’s a link to the free online version of the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Ever wondered: How Does a Word Get Into the Dictionary?
Learn some new and interesting vocabulary words!
Learn how to Read the Dictionary.