ABC Comprehensive Dictionary - poll

I’d like to find out how fellow forum folk feel about this fine work (1-4 are for folks who own the new hardcover ABC Comprehensive only). I’ll be forwarding the results to the publisher.

  1. Is this large and heavy enough that for you it is only a desktop dictionary? (As opposed to being something that you would toss in your bookbag moderately often to take to the park, library, coffee shop etc.)

  2. Do you feel the print is somewhat too small, and an eyestrain?

  3. Would you prefer the Chinese characters be enlarged somewhat?

  4. If you answered yes to the above 3, would you like to see it printed in a larger version with larger type and larger margins?

  5. Would you buy an electronic dictionary which contained this dictionary’s database in preference to the ones currently available?

  6. Do you have any other comments or suggestions on this work which you’d like me to pass on to its publisher?

I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with the dictionary you’re talking about. Are you referring to just an electronic version, or the paperback as well? Is it something you can find at most Caves stores on Taiwan? If you are referring to an electronic version, is there some free sample to peruse in order to give you a response?

As far as I know, no electronic version exists. I just wanted to see if fans would be interested in one. There are four print editions.

The new one is the hardcover ABC Chin-Eng Comprehensive Dict., 2.10 x 10.20 x 7.38 inches, 1439 pages, $60. 196,000 entries. A superb, highly recommended book. See my and other reviews on Amazon etc.

The still very worthwhile older version, “ABC Chinese-English Dictionary”, has 71,486 entries and comes in 3 forms:

the original paperback desk edition, out of print ( I have and will sell 2).
the current hardcover desk edition, 920pp., roughly 1.75 x 8 x 6.5?
the smaller paperback pocket edition 912 pages ; 1.24 x 5.95 x 3.96 (reportedly the same number of entries, just shrunk to microscopic print)

I bought my 3 desk ed’s at Caves and my 3 Compreh.'s from the publisher keyword=ABC+Chinese+English+Dictionary;

but you can also get them from Amazon.

One reason I like this series so much is that the editor, John DeFrancis, and the publisher are very keen on continuing to improve the series and very responsive to readers’ suggestions. My own additions and corrections have been incorporated in the new Comprehensive, which is nice. Far East has exactly the opposite attitude, which is a real shame.

Pleco (Oxford Palm) already has the Palm/PocketPC license for the ABC series. At least, that’s my understanding.

Hi DB,

You and I still have the only two reviews for it on Amazon. I also just commented on it on another thread on this forum yesterday, and then I saw this thread.


  1. Is this large and heavy enough that for you it is only a desktop dictionary? (As opposed to being something that you would toss in your bookbag moderately often to take to the park, library, coffee shop etc.)[/quote]
    Yeah, but I want it to be much bigger.

No, but they certainly better not make it one micron smaller. They did a very nice job with the printing.

3. Would you prefer the Chinese characters be enlarged somewhat?[/quote]
Well, as a part two to my answer above I would say it’s always welcome to have larger type, but there’s a trade off, of course, with the number of pages and amount of information one can fit.

Sorry, I don’t have a part three to this answer.

I’m old fashioned; I like paper :sunglasses:

I had started a list for them of the (very many) words they don’t have – and it would have been a long list by now – but they never got back to me after I emailed them. Your thoughts?

It is a shame since they’re big one is a nice dictionary for traditional stuff. I actually went to their office about 2+ years ago to generously make a suggestion that would have hugely improved their “3000 Dictionary”. I talked with two of their editiors, but I might as well have been talking to the wall :loco:

[My generous sugestion was just the same thing that everyone with a pulse thought when they saw the “3000”: Duh, put it in order of character frequency! Though I did express this to them more diplomatically, of course.]

Have you posted this over at You’ll surely get more responses.

Wenlin also incorporates the ABC Comprehensive.

I had started a list for them of the (very many) words they don’t have – and it would have been a long list by now – but they never got back to me after I emailed them. [/quote]
If you still have the list, send it to me and I’ll make sure it finds its way to the editors.

Cranky and DB, how do you guys get their ear? I stopped the list some months back, a few score words after I started it, in fact. But many times since then words aren’t there.

If you say they’ll really listen, I’ll start the list again. If you know when their deadline for the next edition is let me know and I’ll get it to them before then. I assume that’s a couple of years away?

I am a big fan of this dictionary, and I would buy the electronic version in an instant over anything else currently available.

It is a shame about the Far East Dictionary – IMO its content is a complete waste because of the poor layout.

I think The ABC Dictionary would really take off with Chinese language students in Taiwan if there were a version with traditional Chinese characters, though the publishers might not see a need (ie, too small of a market?)

Good review, Greg!

I definitely agree with your points about the various nice features which are not comprehensive, like parts of speech. But they did such a good job of improving it from the prior edition that I strongly recommend you make a note of any such omissions and write to them with the list.

The single sort alphabetization is awesome! I agree that it’s nice to have compounds under a head character too, but we have oodles of dictionaries like that, so the single sort is definitely welcome. Also, you say “while probably faster”, but I’ve raced locals using their own dictionaries, and I can usually find a word within about 4-5 seconds, versus a minute or two for them. WAY faster.


Me too, but I prefer tortoise shells. No, seriously, I totally agree. On a daily basis I scribble cross-ref’s, comments, and even archaic versions of the graphs in the margins of my dictionaries. For which purpose the ABCC leaves virtually no room, so I’d love bigger margins.

Dunno. I had very nice responses from them, including personal correspondence from John DeFrancis previously, and they did incorporate my changes in the Comprehensive, such as the change from index key 153 zhai4 ‘serpent’ to zhi4 ‘beasts of prey; <trad.> (legless) worms’, and various additions and clarifications of definitions, TWN vs PRC usage, etc…

But I sent another, far longer list several weeks ago, and got nothing, not even an acknowledgement of receipt. So I wrote Dr DeFrancis directly today and cc’d a couple other email addresses I have for them, mentioning this as well as your similar complaint, and I’ll let you know when I hear from them. They might just be understaffed right now or something. It’s probably temporary. I’d encourage you to go ahead and add to your list routinely, and later on, when they can handle the input, it’ll be there for you to send to them.

Yup, I went there for similar reasons, although regarding the FE CED, and got a deaf ear. They actually told me that they had no interest in investing further in improving the dictionary, and merely wanted to continue selling it as is. I couldn’t believe my ears. I will never buy anything from Far East again.

Dunno, I merely wrote to the email address given in the old paperback ABC (1st ed.), and got a reply from a staff member (Ann James, I believe it was) who forwarded it to Dr. DeFrancis, whom I’ve never met. He replied personally several times, forwarded my comments (and the detailed etymological evidence I included) to his “experts”, and then replied to me again that they had accepted my arguments. When the ABCC appeared, it incorporated my changes.

Other than the email addresses for Ms. James and Dr. DeFrancis, I don’t have any particular way of getting their ear. You, Cranky? Do you know anyone on their staff? If I don’t hear from them in 2 weeks or so, I’d like to ask you for whatever contact info you have for them.

You must have one of the old black 1st editions with only simplified graphs for the compounds. The new red Comprehensive (highly recommended) has traditional characters for compounds as well as main entries. They don’t bother adding the traditionals for characters which merely contain the well known simplifications of some components like the yan2 ‘speech’, ma3 ‘horse’ or che1 ‘vehicle’ for example, but they do add them for just about everything else.

Other than the email addresses for Ms. James and Dr. DeFrancis, I don’t have any particular way of getting their ear. You, Cranky? Do you know anyone on their staff? [/quote]
I’ve corresponded occasionally with John DeFrancis, Tom Bishop, and some of the staff of the University of Hawai`i Press, and I am in frequent contact with Victor Mair.

DeFrancis is well into his 90s now, so I’d be surprised if he were managing the bulk of the updates. On the other hand, he was certainly the main person to handle my work on correcting the romanization charts.

Bishop, who is the main person behind Wenlin, probably deals mainly with computer issues.

Mair always seems to have a hundred different things going on at once and is out of the U.S. this year, which may account for any delay if he were handling responses.

I believe plans are in the works for a revised mainland edition soon, as well as for a pocket edition (a real pocket edition, not the hefty original). But I don’t know the schedule.

(double post)

Did you go to U Penn? Just curious how you know him. The only thing I’ve ever spoken to him about was the Alphabetical Index to the Hanyu Da Cidian, which I recently bought.

Yeah, that probably explains it. Thanks for the info.
I’d keep adding to the list if I were you (Greg). I’m sure they’ll need our feedback. I just keep a page taped into the back of each copy, and jot things down when I notice them missing or in error. That way I don’t misplace them. Then once a year or so I type them up and send them in.

I saw the pocket edition already out (see – is that what you were referring to, Cranky?

He saw my website and contacted me. I didn’t go to Penn and never met Mair in person until he visited Taiwan a couple of years ago.

No, I mean something that’s concise enough to carry around. As far as I know, the previously released “pocket edition” is just another name for the ABC1, which at nearly 1,000 pages isn’t exactly the sort of thing a tourist might want. Thanks for the link, though, which reminded me about the C–>E, E–>C ABC dictionary, which is also in the pipeline.

(double post)

As I noted previously and in my Amazon review, normally the ABC team and Dr. DeFrancis have been very, very good about getting back to people on their suggestions. I did hear from them today, and have been informed that “all suggestions are forwarded to Dr. DeFrancis, the author of the dictionary, for his review and feedback. Unfortunately, Dr. DeFrances has of late been rather under the weather and has only recently been able to get back to his e-mail, of which there is now quite a back log. …As a rule he is very diligent about reviewing reader’s input, and I am certain that he will give your correspondence all of the attention it deserves.” (from Matt Olson, Assistant Coordinator)

I’ll ask Mr. Olson about the timeframe for the next addition.

What’s your website address again?

At the time it was limited to . I’ve also made the Website for Mair’s Sino-Platonic Papers.