Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Oxford Dictionary

Blog Conversation About Word Histories . . .


Etymology Blog Conversation

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Our last conversation was about Grammar—the final post, which had no comments, was, Further Conversation about Grammar, and has links to the two previous posts in the discussion…

The new conversation feature here (on Mondays & Wednesdays) continues the discussion when there’s at least one comment on any given post…

So…

I get to start a new conversation :-)

Many of you who’re reading this will have come across the word “Etymology”—some of you will know what it means…

The easy definition for etymology is “word history”—a longer one, from the Oxford Dictionary, is:

“The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.”

My favorite source for studying etymologies is the Online Etymology Dictionary; and, here’s the etymology of “Etymology”:

{ hang on to your mind—it’s long… }

late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French etimologieethimologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia“analysis of a word to find its true origin,” properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” with -logia“study of, a speaking of” (see -logy) + etymon “true sense, original meaning,” neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true,” which perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit satyah, Gothic sunjis, Old English soð “true,” from a PIE *set- “be stable.” Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium.

In classical times, with reference to meanings; later, to histories. Classical etymologists, Christian and pagan, based their explanations on allegory and guesswork, lacking historical records as well as the scientific method to analyze them, and the discipline fell into disrepute that lasted a millennium. Flaubert [“Dictionary of Received Ideas”] wrote that the general view was that etymology was “the easiest thing in the world with the help of Latin and a little ingenuity.”

As a modern branch of linguistic science treating of the origin and evolution of words, from 1640s. As “account of the particular history of a word” from mid-15c. Related: Etymologicaletymologically.

As practised by Socrates in the Cratylus, etymology involves a claim about the underlying semantic content of the name, what it really means or indicates. This content is taken to have been put there by the ancient namegivers: giving an etymology is thus a matter of unwrapping or decoding a name to find the message the namegivers have placed inside. [Rachel Barney, “Socrates Agonistes: The Case of the Cratylus Etymologies,” in “Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy,” vol. xvi, 1998]

I’m pretty sure some of you scanned that blockquote very quickly; and, I probably totally lost a couple folks…

Still…

For writers and publishers (and, even readers) etymologies can be invaluable…

Yes, while there certainly are people who will argue strongly that the historical origin of a word can have very little to do with current usage, let me share a personal philosophical consideration:

Consider the idea that words have “souls”—the “true inner meaning” of the word…

Just like human souls, that original inner meaning is still there when the word is very, very old—much has changed about that word’s “personality and habits”; but, the inner meaning of its soul is eternally the same…

I just happen to be a 72-year-old man—been around the block many, many times; yet, still, in spite of the mileage my body and personality have racked up, my “true inner meaning” as a soul is the same as when I was created…

It’s certainly grown; but, being a soul, it maintains its core Meaning; otherwise, the guy sitting in this chair typing these words would have been ridiculously confused every moment of his life—I’d have had no anchor to tie down and organize the multitudinous events that have tried to force me into their mold, rather than having my soul integrate them into the expanding scaffold of my growing personality (which can often be confused; but, is eternally comforted by the etymology of my soul)………

I didn’t expect I’d write that last paragraph; but, I am a writer and, when my Muse grabs the wheel, she often takes me for some extremely surprising rides…

So…

All it will take to continue this discussion is a single comment from a reader…

Unless…

…that single comment is to suggest a different topic for conversation :-)
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How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?


I subscribe to the Oxford Dictionary Pro but their free online edition of the Oxford Dictionary is good, too.

Naturally, the dictionary is managed by the University of Oxford—“It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest surviving university in the world.”

Oxford actually has 58 different services you can subscribe to

But back to the topic in the title—How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?

The month of February saw these new entries in the Oxford Dictionary (go here for the article in their blog):

appletini
Baggy Green
biosimilar
blootered
braggadocious
burrata
cane corso
cruft
dumbphone
feature-complete
flexitarian
FOSS
friend zone
hump day
metabolic syndrome
omnium
range anxiety
schlumpy
sillage
social sharing
SSD
touchless
tray bake
tweetable
upcharge
voluntourism

So, how many of those entries did you already know?

Did you take any of the links to check out Oxford’s definitions?

Here’s a link to a .pdf flow-chart of how a word or phrase gets into their dictionary

And, if you don’t happen to be able to access that .pdf (which can be saved to your desktop) try this link :-)
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* Google Author Page

The Importance of Words ~ What’s Your Take?


Not everyone thinks words are important—ever known someone who uses about 100 words and is usually very hard to understand?

How about the person who knows 20,000 words and totally confuses you?

I’m an admitted “word-freak” but I feel I’ve learned some practical vocabularic restraint—I love to study words but I try not to use the ones that “most” folks don’t know

So, since I’m hoping some of my readers will use the Comments to share their feelings about the importance of words, but I’m clearly aware most readers don’t leave comments, I’ll share a few links to posts in the Oxford Dictionaries blog—if I see in the Stats that folks have clicked on the following links, I’ll have learned something about my readers :-)

* A very, extremely, highly, really, most *unique* opportunity!!

* Kapow! The language of comics

* Boomerang vocabulary: words that return to their origins

* Why do some words have two opposite meanings?

What are your thoughts and feelings on the importance of words?

How big should a person’s vocabulary be?

Really, no Really, what are words??

Addendum—Quotes About Words:

All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions.
Albert Einstein

As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
William Shakespeare

Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.
William Shakespeare

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

Eating words has never given me indigestion.
Winston Churchill

Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.
Mark Twain

He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
Confucius
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A Love Affair With Words . . .


A recent survey here showed that folks wanted posts on Writing first, then Publishing, then Reading—of course, words are used in all three :-)

And, since my favorite word is “word”, one could expect that when I was growing up dictionaries and thesauruses were some of my best friends

Thing is, there are dictionaries and there are Dictionaries (same with those synonym-thingie books).

I recently let myself be influenced by Erin McKean, who’s been talked about here before.

I even did a calculation of my small budget and determined I could float $50 on my credit card for the few extra months it would take to pay off a new expense

I paid for a year’s subscription to Oxford Dictionaries Pro.

That last link actually leads you to Oxford Dictionaries (where you can use some of their wonderful features) and this link will let you subscribe to the Pro edition.

OK, I’m going to give you some reasons to consider parting with half-a-hundred-per-year but, in case you could care less, there’s a totally cool video down at the bottom of this post :-)

I should point out that the free edition does let you choose between U.S. English and World English, it does have articles on Better Writing—spelling, grammar, etc.—along with Learner’s Dictionaries and Word Puzzles; but, there’s no linked thesaurus and the writing tips are minimal (but, still, helpful).

So, the Pro Edition:

* Go from a dictionary entry straight to the thesaurus entry or vise versa.

* Browse the dictionary in various categories: Subject, Meaning, People & Places, Usage, Region, and Word Class.

* There are 1.9 million Example Sentences (fully searchable).

* It’s updated every quarter.

* Plus:

Language resources

  • Searchable complete versions of New Hart’s Rules, Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and Garner’s Modern American Usage
  • Specialist dictionaries for writers and editors include New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, and Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage
  • Link directly from dictionary headwords to relevant chapters or entries in the Writers and Editors sections
  • Comprehensive Writing Skills including grammar and punctuation where good writing starts, style and usage to write effectively and create the right impression, and quick spelling tips
  • Use the Vocabulary Builder to enrich creative writing

* And, if you’re a librarian, there’s even more :-)

I’ll share one use I’ve made of this radically cool dictionary.

I have an excellent friend who lives in Australia (I’m in the U.S.) and I did a search that filtered the dictionary for Australian, Informal, Nouns for the words “man” and “woman” (the other Country Filters are British, Canadian, Indian English, Irish English, North American, Northern English, New Zealand, Scottish, South African, and US; the other Usage Filters are archaic, dated, derogatory, dialect, euphemistic, figurative, formal, historical, humorous, literary, rare, and technical; and, the other Word Class Filters are adjective, adverb, verb, abbreviation, conjunction, contraction, combining form, determiner, exclamation, plural noun, predeterminer, prefix, preposition, pronoun, and suffix).

There was one world for women that my friend said she’d never heard used

She even checked a well-known, specifically Australian dictionary

She mentioned another, related word that she’s heard used and the dictionary had it defined but didn’t say it was Australian usage

We had a lively discussion of the whys and where-fors of which words end up in which dictionaries

She’s going to survey her writers’ group and I’m eager to hear what they say :-)

As far as what words end up in which dictionaries and which dictionaries are best suited for certain uses plus lots of other mega-cool lexicographical information (delivered with compelling style) check out this video of Erin McKean (former principal editor of one of Oxford’s dictionaries) as she talks to the folks at Google about her profession


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