Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.

by RS on January 19, 2012


Flip Dictionary
By Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.
Writer’s Digest Books, 2000
693 pages

I skipped yesterday’s post in protest of SOPA, not that I think this site would ever get censored but you never know. Writing a novel that’s critical of our policies, and whose characters admire an alleged spy and a former blacklisted screenwriter has probably put me on someone’s blacklist.

However, I am back today with an inoffensive review. Today’s offering is Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer Ph.D. Printed on the cover it says, “For when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word.”

So it’s a thesaurus and dictionary, right? Well, yes and no. Flip Dictionary offers a reversed method for finding the correct word or phrases that describe people, places and things. And it’s also a thesaurus.

Let’s say I want to name a specific piece of furniture, but I don’t know what it’s formally called. If I go and look under furniture, I’ll find that Kipfer has compiled a list of furniture terms that range from curved and tapered leg (cabriole) to wickerwork furniture (rattan). But I still can’t find the specific word for a desk with a small book case on top. So I leaf through the book until I find desk and voila! There are several entries and I find that my specific desk is called a “Secretary.” Don’t know the name of the rolling part of a rolltop desk? That’s a tambour. What about a small desk? A davenport.

I never know what any of the furniture in the dining room is called besides the chairs and table, so I went ahead and looked under “table” and found: table, sideboard or buffet: credenza. Bingo! Now I have the specific word I need to describe the scene that takes place in a dining room.

Flip Dictionary offers a lot more than just furniture terms. I opened it to a random page and found the related terms to hammers and mallets. Do you know what a hammer head is called? That’s a peen.

Or maybe you need something more colorful to describe legal jargon other than legalese, how about grimgribber? [Note: I did some more research on this and the meaning of grimgribber was originally legal jargon, but it also referred to lawyers until it fell out of common usage].

You can spend hours with Flip Dictionary looking up words and phrases. It’s loads of fun, but most importantly it will help punch up and add oomph (élan, pizazz, vigor, vim, vitality) to your writing.

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