When my sweetheart moved from England to California many years ago, he got there ahead of most of his belongings. He moved into a work friend’s spare bedroom and slept in a sleeping bag. I asked him (over the phone, in the course of our long-distance courtship) what of his things he missed most. His answer? His OED.
The OED, in case you don’t know, is the Oxford English Dictionary. It comes in two versions: the full (20 volumes) and the compact (2 volumes + supplement). You may think that the compact version is edited down in some way. It’s not. The text is literally shrunk, and the set comes with a magnifying glass.
Looking things up in the OED is a treat. It gives the first known usage of a word, which is handy when you’re trying to figure out whether two words are related or whether someone in another time would have used it. The best part is the other words you stumble across along the way. It’s a rabbit hole in there. You go in to find one specific piece of info, and before you know it everyone is gathered around, pointing at unusual words and reading definitions aloud.
Some words that have given us pleasure along the way:
Crepuscular (“Of or pertaining to twilight”)
Feeze (“To twist or turn with a screw-like motion”)
Rommack (“To rummage or fish up.”)
Aren’t they fun to say?
The story of how the OED was compiled is fascinating. The editors put out a call to the public for assistance, and only later discovered that the most prolific of those volunteers, compiling thousands of word histories and sending them to the editors through the mail, did so from a lunatic asylum. Check out this history in The Professor and the Madman.
The electronic version doesn’t provide the fun that browsing does, and requires subscription, but is surely handy.
Your challenge: Make a sentence using all three of the above obscure words.
Latest posts by Emily Winslow (see all)
- So long, farewell…by Emily Winslow - August 23, 2010
- If you like my book… by Emily Winslow - August 16, 2010
- Invitations are tricky! by Emily Winslow - August 9, 2010
- Last Deb book of the year: Alicia’s Simply from Scratch - August 2, 2010
- Junk Week, by Emily Winslow - July 26, 2010