How do you prove that you are learned, genius, or simply incredibly obsessive? By making the claim that you have read the dictionary (or encyclopedia) cover-to-cover, of course. Depending on your age, this may be all you need to convince people that you are a child prodigy.
The idea is that anyone who would take the time and energy to read something as dry as the dictionary must care a great deal about knowledge and learning. Or be slightly insane. Or both.
For bonus points, memorize it.
See also: Bookworm
Film - Animated
Film - Live-Action
- In A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown is intensely studying for a spelling bee. He soliloquizes that he is trying to memorize the dictionary.
- In The Fifth Element, Leeloo does this with an electronic version of the encyclopedia. She has a breakdown when she gets to War in the 'W's, which is funny because she'd have had to pass a lot of battles in the 'B's and conflicts in the 'C's.
- Say Anything: One of Diane Court's prize possessions is a dictionary her father gave her when she was in grade school. She tells her boyfriend Lloyd that she used to highlight every word she looked up in it. Lloyd opens it to a random page and finds about every third word highlighted.
- My mother only owned two books, the Bible and the dictionary. She said the dictionary didn't have much of a story, but at least the author explained it as he went along.
- Tiffany Aching from Discworld has read the dictionary cover-to-cover. Not because she's particularly dedicated to educating herself, but because nobody on the farm where she grew up had ever told her you weren't supposed to.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Valentine Michael Smith read Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (Third Edition) as part of his attempt to learn about Earth culture (he was born on Mars and raised by Martians). He also read the Encyclopedia Britannica.
- In Wayside School, one of the classes in Mrs. Zarve's class is to memorize the dictionary.
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society, George "Sticky" Washington read every book he could find, including the Dictionary and the Encyclopedia. Also, in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Olive practiced by reading the dictionary while she was using the bathroom.
- "Memorizin' Mo" by Shel Silverstein:
Mo memorized the dictionary
But just can't seem to find a job
Or anyone who wants to marry
Someone who memorized the dictionary
- In an episode of Smallville there was a baby born who aged very fast. He learned even faster than he aged. He told Lana that he had been reading the Encyclopedia and he had reached the section on windmills.
- Mentioned in a Mafalda strip: she sees her father go to the bookshelf, pick up the dictionary, look up a word, and put it back on the shelf. As he leaves, she calls out "At that rate, you'll never finish it!"
- Autumn in Precocious, because both her parents are librarians. In one arc she tries to read the Encyclopedia too.
- This doesn't involve reading the definitions of the words, but in one set of Animaniacs segments, Yakko sings "All the Words in the English Language" by singing words in relatively alphabetical order out of a giant dictionary and getting more and more tired as the song goes on. However, we only see him singing parts of the A, F, L and Z sections on screen, but it's implied that he's sung all the words in the dictionary during that sequence.
- WordGirl is likely this, an edutainment superhero who is one-part Flying Brick and another part "living dictionary" (so says the theme song). She has never failed to define a word in a single episode, although they never reach past 7th-grade vocabulary.
- A. J. Jacobs read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and wrote a book about it called "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Man in the World."
- Also, some contestants in the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been known to do this.
- Eminem has apparently done this.