Friday, October 10, 2008

Little-Used Words Face Extinction

“If you have a big enough dictionary, just about everything is a word.” –Dave Barry

For years, one of my favorite books has been my Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Yes, I know there are all kinds of dictionaries on the internet and I use them—at times. Still, I prefer the old-fashioned way of flipping through the two-thousand something pages and running my finger down the columns as I try to figure out the spelling of the word I’m seeking. Sometimes, I discover an interesting new word or two in the process.

However, after reading The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, I realize I’ve taken dictionaries for granted all my life. The Professor and the Madman is about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. I thought an English Dictionary was created at the same time as humans started communicating with words. I never thought about people having to produce the book from scratch hundreds of years later—without computers. The number of people, years involved, and the process used are mindboggling facts. Throw in a murder and a madman and the procedure becomes more astonishing.

Now after learning so many people went to so much trouble to create such a masterpiece, I’m afraid that what I read on will make all those folks roll over in their graves. Author Simon Winchester also may be cringing as his book has a list of some of his favorite little-used words, which may very well be on verge of disappearing. It seems that Collins Dictionary is threatening to expunge little-used words from their next edition. Tell me it isn’t true!

The threat alone has caused readers of The Times to make a case for words they regard as vital to their vocabulary. Read the article for some of the words involved because you may want to go to bat for your favorite. Until February, newspapers, broadcasts and online media will be monitored to see which words go from obscurity back to popularity.

Personally I like fubsy—meaning short and stout. Perhaps my use of it on this blog will keep it from extinction. What are your favorite words and are they threatened?

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.

Tags: Dave Barry, Oxford Dictionary, The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester, Random House, Dictionary, Times Online, Collins Dictionary, : fubsy

1 comment:

Zelda said...

Thanks for writing this.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world