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THE OXFORD-DUDEN PICTORIAL SPANISH-ENGLISH DICTIONARY, edited by Manuel Alvar Ezquerra (Oxford University: $32; 678 pages of annotated illustration; 96-page index).

May 25, 1986|Jack Miles

In Germany, Webster is pronounced Duden; and one of the distinctive features of the Duden lexicographical tradition is the Bildwoerterbuch , the pictorial dictionary. It would have been a remarkable venture to translate the Duden pictorial with its hundreds of crowded, meticulously numbered illustrations into Spanish. It is a still more remarkable achievement to have translated it into German and English simultaneously.

Aesthetically, the Duden pictorial has never had much to recommend it. Informationally, however, the work is a marvel. Its drawings may not be beautiful, but they are--in each of the myriad technical, commercial and artistic areas covered--of extraordinary density and completeness. Thus, in the illustration above, No. 34 is "high-pressure cementing pumps" or "las bombas de cimentacion a alta presion." You may pass for a native on either side of the border and not have that at the tip of your tongue.

The appearance of a tool like the bilingual Spanish-English Duden pictorial says two things: first, that the Spanish-speaking world is entering into an ever more extensive technical, commercial and artistic interaction with the rest of the world; and, second, that for these purposes and in general for the pullulating world of things, the world traveler (or worker or businessman or artisan) had best know how to say it in English.

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