The Irony Awards

“And the award for Most Ironic Book Purchase goes to…”

With the sports days starting this afternoon, I thought I’d use the free time to go DVD shopping. Actually, I was only shopping for one DVD, but because I only had ¥100 notes on me,[1] I bought several besides.

I also went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop at the north end of 科华北路 [in Chengdu] because I was trying to find an English dictionary of the normal variety. I know I can use English dictionaries online. Firefox comes with a link to Chambers, but I’m not always online or necessarily in a pos­i­t­ion to go there. Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic for the days when my copy of the Concise Oxford was handy on the bookshelf for those occasions when I’d forgotten how to spell a word. Yes, such occasions exist in my world.

But I didn’t find a suitable dictionary. Those which are of the common or garden variety are usually learner’s dictionaries of a sort – beginner; inter­mediate; advanced. There are, after that, few choices for native speakers, and having surveyed the dictionaries, I went and had a look through the IELTS section where I spotted Mark Morgan’s Writing Skills for the IELTS Test.

When I first started teaching IELTS about four years ago, I had his IELTS reading book, which was definitely the best book of its kind I had. But his writing book was out of print, and in spite of periodic searches, I’ve never seen it in all this time – until today. I bought it because I may have a use for it in the future, but I probably won’t during the course of this academic year; hence, the purchase was ironic if, as it seems, I’m not going to be working for the programme beyond June next year. Also ironic was the absence of Morgan’s IELTS reading book from the shelves. I bet it’s out of print.

I also went to the other Foreign Languages Bookshop, but their selection of dictionaries was even more limited than the first place. I did buy The Collected Short Stories of Saki by H.H. Munro as some light relief from all the horror I’ve read recently, and I continue to note the inflated prices of some of the Wordsworth Classics volumes. ¥60 (£5.45) for a volume as thin as Thomas More’s Utopia is utterly ridiculous at a time when the exchange rate is just below ¥11 to £1.


1. That hasn’t happened to me in a while, but it’s annoying when it does. You either have ¥100 notes or mere 角 and nothing in between for minor purchases.


One thought on “The Irony Awards”

  1. Would you like us to get you a new Concise Oxford Dictionary? The one we have here is the 5th Edition (1975)!!!

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