Having Fun with the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary is the granddaddy of dictionaries.  If you were a word, the OED lets you know when you have arrived and rolls out the carpet to welcome you to the English language.  For the English speaker, it is the place to go if you want to learn how a word got its meaning and how the meaning may have changed over the years, along with the spelling of the word.  Since putting the OED online, the publishers have added many enhancements that can bring out the word geek in all of us.

For example, the timeline feature tells us how many words entered the English language each year, beginning with the year 600.  One of the first words listed is the word town – which was spelt tuun way back in 601 and meant “an enclosed land surrounding a single dwelling.”  You can see how the word changed over time under the enty.

You can also filter the timeline by region, origin and subject.  For example, when looking at the time line, we learn that most of the words in our language were added to the English language between 1850 and 1899.  (In fact, 42,229 words were added during those years).  However, if we sort by subject – for example – law – we learn that most legal terms were recognized as English words in the years 1600-1649 (the number of new words was 1,595.

The OED adds new entries on a daily basis.  For example, today’s new words included:

to heart

The new sense added to heart v. in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers. It originated as a humorous reference to logos featuring a picture of a heart as a symbol for the verb love, like that of the famous ‘I ♥ NY’ tourism campaign. Our earliest quote for this use, from 1984, uses the verb in ‘I heart my dog’s head’, a jokey play on bumper stickers featuring a heart and a picture of the face of a particular breed of dog (expressing a person’s enthusiasm for, say, shih-tzus) which itself became a popular bumper sticker.  From these beginnings, heart v. has gone on to live an existence in more traditional genres of literature as a colloquial synonym for ‘to love’.

It also included muffin top, initialisms like LOL, and lumpenintelligentsia.  What?  You don’t know what lumpenintelligentsia means?  Look it up here (remember to use the proxy server if not on campus):   http://www.oed.com

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