Look it up


By Lee Scott

“Look it up.” How many times did I hear that line?  Anytime I asked my mother for the spelling of a word she would use that phrase. Of course, my frustrated response to her came in the order of another question: “How can I look it up when I do not know how to spell it?” She would then tell me to get the dictionary, sound out the word and if I still could not find the spelling, she would help. We went through this dialogue countless number of times.

The old “Look it up” line was also used when I needed information about a place or a historical figure. She would point to the bookcase in the living room. There it was the entire set of encyclopedias. Off I would go to find the correct book. The books were in alphabetical order so you had to first determine which one you needed and then proceed. I used them all the time for research on school papers. Many of us remember having to learn about the indigenous plants of some South American country or learn the background on explorers like Ponce de Leon and Ferdinand Magellan. The facts were all there. I just had to look them up. It was really frustrating when you just wanted get an answer to a simple question. Was Madame Curie a chemist, an astronomer or an actress? It was a multiple choice question on a homework assignment. Again, there it was… “Look it up.”

It took a few years of training before I embraced the whole “Look it up” concept. But my wading through Webster’s dictionaries, Roget’s Thesaurus and the Encyclopedia Britannica got easier as I grew older; and the training was helpful for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Naturally, I used it on my own children who also complained about my “Look it up” response.

What a different world we live in now! I can find out just about everything I want to know without piling through reference books. Just by typing on my computer I can find the local movies playing and what people think of them. I can find out the menu on local restaurants, the hours and whether the food is any good based on how it is rated.

I do thank my Mother for showing me how to do the research. It has been invaluable throughout my life. However, I am not sure how she would react to my new habit. All I have to do is turn on my new Smart Phone and ask Suri. Life just got easier.

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