My Wednesday posts are devoted to all things wordy - grammar, etymology, writing, the works.
If it involves language, I'll be talking about it here.
Apparently it was National Dictionary Day in the States earlier this month, and since we don't recognize a similar day here in Canada, I'm using it as an excuse to write this post. I think dictionaries should be celebrated and revered every day, but then, as you know, I'm a nerd when it comes to words.
I feel that too many people think of a dictionary as a crutch that they don't need, which inevitably gets them into trouble. I've done a lot of copy-editing in my time, and I've seen many otherwise talented writers embarrass themselves by using words incorrectly, which is so unnecessary. There should be no shame in using a dictionary - no one can be expected to know ALL of the words.
I also try to flex my brain every weekday when I post a new-to-me word from my Canadian Oxford dictionary as my Word of the Day on Twitter. (I repost them here on the blog as part of my weekly Friday Footnotes feature.) I guarantee that if you ever decide to start a similar practice, you'll be surprised by how many words you DON'T know.
So whether it's Dictionary.com or a tattered old copy of Merriam-Webster, make friends with a dictionary and refer to it often. At the very least, you'll confirm something you already knew, and you might just learn something you didn't - either way, it's a win.
- The first single-language English dictionary ever published was Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall, in 1604.
- When Samuel Johnson's History of the English Language came out in 1755, Johnson was criticized for imposing his personality on to the book. His definition of oats, for instance, makes a rude reference to the Scots. He defines the word as 'A Grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.'
- The proposed size for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) first edition, completed in 1928, was four volumes. It's actual size was 10 volumes.
- The proposed time to complete the OED first edition was 10 years. In actuality, it took 70 years.
- The first CD-ROM version of the OED appeared in 1992.
- The printed OED in a 20-volume set, purchased new, is $995 US and weighs around 150 pounds.
- There are close to 600,000 definitions in the current OED.
- The word with the most definitions in the current OED is run.
- Ammon Shea read the entire OED in one year, and wrote a book about it, entitled Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 pages.