October 19, 2014


Here is a reflection on the use of dictionaries. This is not an academic study or discourse on the Geschichte und Gegenwart of the phenomenon of dictionary but simply an answer to my students of Tibetan Studies, who, for an nth time ask me: “Which dictionaries should we use?” To avoid a rigmarole about it, my advice thus far as been this: 

“Use any dammed dictionary so long as you do not sell your soul to it! There is no such thing as absolutely perfect dictionary. One can, if one will and is able, learn from even the worst kind of dictionary. No dictionary should, however, replace your critical sense of judgement. Dictionaries are simply aids to learning. One of the most ridiculous things would a belief that we can translate a text solely on the basis of a dictionary. If you need to look up a dictionary, start with Jäschke 1881.”


  1. Rigamarole* was and probably still is one of my father's favorite words, and he always liked using lone ones. Usually it was in phrases like "Do we have to go through the same old rigamarole?" or "Let's skip the rigamarole!" It meant for him any kind of long and tiresome chain of events, but especially a well established procedure that doesn't make much sense. Perhaps we've hit upon a new translation for Sangsara?
    (4 syllables, even if some people want to drop the 2nd one and spell it rigmarole)

  2. Jäschke 1881? Does that synch with iPad? Is a newer version downloadable?

  3. Jäschke 1881 is the older edition. Sorry, I don’t know.