The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know
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Wireless technology. Gene therapy. NAFTA. In addition to the thousands of terms described in the original Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, here are more than five hundred new entries to bring Americans' bank of essential knowledge up to date. The original entries have been fully revised to reflect recent changes in world history and politics, American literature, and, especially, science and technology. Cultural icons that have stood the test of time (Odysseus, Leaves of Grass, Cleopatra, the Taj Mahal, D-Day) appear alongside entries on such varied concerns as cryptography, the digital divide, the European Union, Kwanzaa, pheromones, SPAM, Type A and Type B personalities, Web browsers, and much, much more.
As our world becomes more global and interconnected, it grows smaller through the terms and touchstones that unite us. As E. D. Hirsch writes in the preface, "Community is built up of shared knowledge and values -- the same shared knowledge that is taken for granted when we read a book or newspaper, and that is also taken for granted as part of the fabric that connects us to one another." A delicious concoction of information for anyone who wants to be in the know, The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy brilliantly confirms once again that it is "an excellent piece of work . . . stimulating and enlightening" (New York Times) -- the most definitive and comprehensive family sourcebook of its kind.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #10066 in Books
- Published on:
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 9.53" h x 1.77" w x 8.11" l, 3.54 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 672 pages
From Publishers Weekly
This third edition of the 1988 reference, full of the same back-to-basics philosophy of the earlier volumes, promises to once again serve as a lightning rod for lively discussion. Divided into chapters such as "The Bible" (the editors point out that, regardless of one's religion, it is impossible to be culturally literate without some Biblical knowledge, just as one needs to know the Koran to be literate in Arab culture), "Technology," "Idioms," "World Geography," "Mythology and Folklore" (which includes everything from Medusa to Mickey Mouse) and "Literature in English," the book is a compendium of thumbnail definitions of the bedrock items that make up society. This latest volume includes about 500 (out of nearly 7,000) new entries, 200 of which are in the science and technology chapters. Other entries have been revised and updated. It's entertaining, snappily written, extremely handy and reasonably inclusive (although there are bound to be readers who will find issue with Hirsch's well-known conservative ideologies). Although the book will be a godsend for home schoolers and teachers looking to give students a basic reference, ultimately it may be seen as a giant list, along the same lines as the much-debated list of essential literature that Harold Bloom included in The Western Canon. Arguments over it will probably not center on its stylistics, but on who or what the editors consider essential e.g., Allen Ginsburg made the cut; Jack Kerouac did not.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Initially published in 1988 and revised in 1993, this book is given an exciting update whose 6900 entries include 1000 revised entries and 500 new ones, 200 of which are in science and technology alone. Given the book's aim to define "common cultural knowledge rather than to present a lexicon of words or topics," a revision was sorely needed; when the second edition appeared, almost no one knew what a web page was. The text is divided into sections by subject-e.g., fine arts, world politics, life sciences-each with a brief introduction; access is also aided by a thorough index. The entries themselves are complete, concise, and clearly written as well as extensively and effectively cross-referenced. All that need be said about this first-rate reference is that it is well written, well researched, and well worth the money. Students, general readers, trivia buffs, and those who like to have a great reference work at their fingertips will find it informative, useful, and just plain fun. Highly recommended.
Manya S. Chylinski, Ernst & Young Ctr. for Business Knowledge, Boston
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is the most recent list of "background knowledge needed to be able to read with understanding." Hirsch published Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Houghton) in 1987, the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy in 1988 (Houghton), and a revised Dictionary in 1993 (Houghton). He believes that "shared information is the foundation of our public discourse . . . that allows us to comprehend our daily newspapers and news reports, to understand our peers and leaders, and even to share our jokes. Cultural literacy is the context of what we say and read." The compilers selected items "likely to be known by a broad majority of literate Americans" and of "lasting significance."
Cultural Literacy was praised as the most important book on education to appear in years but also criticized as being elitist and conservative, with most of the entries in use for at least 100 years and an emphasis on print media. The authors produced the third edition "to keep up with the changes in American culture," adding 500 new entries, 200 in the "Science and Technology" section, and updating 1,000 others. Internet and computer-related terms (FAQ, laptop, snail mail) are among the most important additions.
The 7,000 entries are arranged alphabetically within 23 sections, including "The Bible," "Fine Arts," "World and American History," and "Physical, Earth, and Life Sciences." Entries include brief definitions and cultural associations, such as "an olive branch is now regarded as a sign of peace, as is the dove."
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is a tool for assessing cultural literacy, not a first choice for definitions of terms. It should not be compared with other specialized dictionaries, especially popular culture compendia. In it, Java is an island in Indonesia, not programming language or Starbucks staple, and Pluto is a planet and the god of the underworld, not a cartoon dog. Popular with trivia fans and familiar to educators, this resource will be requested in academic, high-school, and public libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most helpful customer reviews
62 of 62 people found the following review helpful.
A great tool to learn English & Culture.
I am a foreign citizen living in the US for about 4 years for graduate level degree in the US. Culture as well as language are the biggest obstacles of my life in the US. I overcame the basic survival and class language barrier after living 2-3 years, but the cultural barrier with combined with conversational language is very challenging. Not only for more socializing but also more nature English writing and speacking, I worked hard, and Culturacy Dictionary helps me a lot. It includes expressions from various areas, e.g. bible, literature, idiom, etc. During the reading or watching TV, I can understand better the implications and expressions rooted from relgion, history, literature, and other areas of culture.
I use this dictionary with several ways. First, just read the page I am intersted in. Second, I consult it during my writing to find better expression, and do more research to understand the background better via internet. Third, play game with this book with my American Classmates - in fact, this helps me the most. They explain what is not written in the dictionary, and this is the way I can acquire the knowledge of the expression easily and last long in my brain.
This dictionary is wonderful, I think, for both for navtive and non-native. Non natives can upgrade their English level with cultural understanding, and natives can be more sophisticated using their languages. It is a great tool, and I am happy to find it!
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful.
An unlikely coffee table book.
By A Customer
The pictures aren't flashy. The text isn't eloquent. But, this book delivers exactly what the subtitle suggests, "What Every American Needs to Know." Full of up-to-date and well-organized content, the book provides answers to everyday questions, in addition to being a source for research. (Writers of college papers will find this a very useful tool.)
Although I am not one to pick up a dictionary and read through it, I typically cover several pages at a time when I reference this book. While reading the text of one piece, I often find myself intrigued about, and looking up, another topic.
Every home should have a copy of this book!
84 of 96 people found the following review helpful.
Essential Reference Material
By Charles Floading
Want to look up cultural references in Denis Miller's rants? Can't remember what the Byzantine empire did? Feel like your loosing your memory? This book can help!
Yes, I'll admit the title does have a certain haughtiness and presumptiouness to it, but this book is packed with information. The topics covered are quite broad, and I guess it would HAVE to be if the goal is to ensure cultural literacy. Including all the things you should have learned in highschool had you been paying attention, this book is a great refresher course in everything from History, to Literature, to proverbs and idioms in the English language.
It has a bit of a western bias, which is sort of what I'm getting at when I say the title presumes alot. Perhaps an alternate title (and I mean this without cynicsm) would be "what most Americans don't know about America but should." I include myself in that category, by the way.
The best thing about this book is it's organization. At first, I was wishing it was all alphabetical, but then you realize that grouping entries in catagorized chapters is better. Additionally, the bites of data are concise and easily digested, enough to answer a question and provide enough information for you to look elsewhere if you want in depth explainations.See all 59 customer reviews...