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Jul 24 2013

That’s going to be an expensive book-burning

The compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary will set you back about $350; it’s a massive great thick book. So the homophobes better start saving their pennies, because the Oxford Dictionary is changing to include gender-neutral definitions of marriage.

It really is a marvelous book. Way back when I was in Junior High and High school, my nerdy friends and I liked to hang out in the library and go to random pages in the OED — no, we weren’t looking up dirty words (mostly), we were expanding our vocabulary!

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  1. 1
    marcoli

    Why, that is mighty advancing, artistic, beautifying, beneficial, broadening , civilizing, constructive, corrective, developmental, dignifying, disciplining, edifying, educative, elevating, ennobling, enriching, expanding, glorifying, helpful, humane, humanizing, influential, inspirational, instructive, learned, liberal, liberalizing, nurturing, ornamenting, polishing, promoting, raising, refined, refining, regenerative, socializing, stimulating, uplifting, widening of you!

  2. 2
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Meh, they’re scumbags; they’ll just steal it.

  3. 3
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    I’ve picked up some great and little-used words from various editions of the OED, including my prized First Edition Oxford Canadian. Lees, for instance, and the delightful runcinate. English is pretty cool that way.

    As my friend James Nicoll said of the purity of the English language:

    The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.[

    Les mots justes.

  4. 4
    Reptile Dysfunction

    I still have my copy of the compact OED in two big volumes
    with a magnifying glass in a little drawer at the top. I liked the
    fact that virtually any combination of letters that is allowed
    in English used to be a word of some kind, & almost every
    spelling mistake ever made turns out to be a variant that has
    been acceptable somewhere, at some time.

  5. 5
    Eamon Knight

    on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary

    …which is almost literally true, given that some of those words are relics of conquest and colonialism.

    We also have the Compact OED, complete with magnifying glass, and the supplementary volume. I think we got them cheap for joining a book club ~30 years ago. And yes, I’ve actually consulted it within the past six months (the etymologies and antique references are fascinating).

  6. 6
    tomh

    I still have my copy of the compact OED in two big volumes
    with a magnifying glass in a little drawer at the top.

    I’ve had the exact same edition for decades. Love that book. Plus the magnifying glass is very handy for many uses.

  7. 7
    Moggie

    When I bought mine, the illuminated magnifying glass had a faulty switch. So I had the dubious pleasure of returning to the store and saying “that dictionary you sold me doesn’t work”.

  8. 8
    richardelguru

    What’s really neat is the online version. Couple-a-hunred bucks a year (IIRR) and fully searchable.

  9. 9
    Strewth

    Oxford is the One True Dictionary. The usurper Webster must be opposed at every turn.

  10. 10
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    So you’re saying Webster was No True Lexicographer?

    (I think Webster has its place, that place being the United States of America; that OED also has its place, namely, everywhere else English is spoken ;) )

  11. 11
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    I have the magnificient multi-volume full-size set … and the supplements.

    It’s worth the bookshelf space just for the bragging rights.

  12. 12
    anuran

    Why do they specify “two persons”? Millions of people have more than one spouse.

  13. 13
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I cannot recall seeing an OED. Perhaps I did as a child (grew up in the 80′s, graduated high school in ’94 and was found in libraries at times, so it is possible. OTOH, I spent far too many years in Alabama).

  14. 14
    shouldbeworking

    When will the WND start ranting about the evil Europeans corrupting the purity of the gawd given American language?

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    When I bought mine, the illuminated magnifying glass had a faulty switch. So I had the dubious pleasure of returning to the store and saying “that dictionary you sold me doesn’t work”.

    Hindsight, l’esprit de l’escalier and all that, but you missed your opportunity to thrust the book and receipt at them, look up plaintively, and say “book no go”.

  16. 16
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Why do they specify “two persons”? Millions of people have more than one spouse.

    Those people will be covered by other definitions: the change recognises a change in the definition of marriage following changes in the laws of various countries and- as far as I know- every country which has legalised marriage between people of the same gender has done so within the context of other laws allowing people to only have one spouse at a time.
    Those countries which allow people to have more than one spouse also only allow only two people to a marriage, I think. People who have more than one spouse have more than one marriage, not one marriage with more than two people in it.

  17. 17
    David Marjanović

    & almost every
    spelling mistake ever made turns out to be a variant that has
    been acceptable somewhere, at some time.

    The very concept of “spelling mistake” is pretty young.

  18. 18
    Gnu Atheist

    “Way back when I was in Junior High and High school, my nerdy friends and I liked to hang out in the library and go to random pages in the OED…”

    Wow, you really were a nerd!

    :)

  19. 19
    intergalacticmedium

    We managed to pick up a full volume for about £20 from the local library when they were downsizing, mainly used for solving obscure etymological arguments at dinner parties but all good fun.

  20. 20
    anuran

    #16 sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Those people will be covered by other definitions: the change recognises a change in the definition of marriage following changes in the laws of various countries

    My point is that a current deficiency in the OED definition continues uncorrected. The man-and-woman thing is getting updated. The “two persons” still forgets there are hundreds of millions of people who live in Muslim countries (just for instance) where “plural” has been a legal and traditional choice.

  21. 21
    sbuh

    #16
    I’ll have to remember that the next time I get into an argument with a “traditional marriage” advocate who tosses out the polygamy fallacy.

  22. 22
    Rich Woods

    We had a concise version when I was a kid. I remember watching an episode of Kojak when I was about nine years old, then, based on questions raised by that episode, looking up the word ‘rape’ in the dictionary the following morning (before anyone else was up) . I had to follow all the subsequent definitions before I understood it. Thank you, OED — it was easier than asking my parents!

  23. 23
    rrhain

    I have the 1973 version, two volumes, magnifying glass in a drawer at the top of the box, like others here have mentioned. But, it was my standard for managing my eyesight. I was extremely nearsighted and without my glasses, I didn’t need the magnifying glass. Just shove the book right up to my nose and I’d be reading it just fine.

    Then I got LASIK and my visual cone inverted. Used to be that I couldn’t see anything further away than a few inches. Now I can’t see anything closer than that. But, I could still make out the words with some decent light.

    Now…well, now I need that flipping magnifying glass.

  24. 24
    Reptile Dysfunction

    @ David M. : “The very concept of a ‘spelling mistake’ is very young.”
    Of course you are right. I just had a random synaptic flashback to a
    group of sycophants lunging forward to defend Dan Quayle by saying
    “But it’s in the OED!”

  25. 25
    damonbradshaw

    When I worked in a TV studio, right before a show, we’d take the OED from the newsroom, open it to a random page, point to a random word, and challenge the anchor to slip that word into the newscast somewhere.

    He always did.

  26. 26
    Erp

    The OED has multiple definitions for marriage. A particular change will probably be to

    1. a. The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony.The term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex (see gay marriage n. at gay adj., adv., and n. Special uses 2b).

    with a current quote

    1975 G. Lichtenstein in N.Y. Times 27 Apr. 49 The move toward legally-sanctioned marriages between persons of the same sex.

    And a change in wording to reflect that it is now legal and not just a social construct.

    BTW Definition 1e refers to group marriage. Note that in standard polygamy there are multiple marriages (e.g., the husband is in three marriages, one to each of his three wives) not one marriage.

  27. 27
    chigau (違う)

    Erp
    Your comment appears to be on topic.
    What are you trying to pull, here?

  28. 28
    chigau (違う)

    ;-)

  29. 29
    John Morales

    [meta + OT]

    Heh. Spammer (currently @29) fails at spamming no less than at math.

  30. 30
    Vijen

    My first job after graduating from Oxford University in the mid-70s was as a library researcher for the OED, collecting the illustrative quotations and trying to antedate usage (and ideally identify coinage) of scientific words. I was there 2 years, and only worked on a small portion of the “S” words. Websters is a runt.

  31. 31
    chigau (違う)

    [ meta heh]
    #29

  32. 32
    kaleberg

    I recently spent $200 for the CD software version of the OED. It’s not perfectly up to date, but it runs on the latest Mac OS and I gather the PC version will run on the most recent versions of Windows. It loads everything onto your computer, so you can keep the CD in a safe place. Our local library used to have an OED account for all us card holders. When they dropped it after budget cuts, I missed it. Now I can do a content search and look for the phrase “meaning uncertain”. Do you know what “hoaming” means? If you do, you’re one up on the OED.

  33. 33
    John Morales

    [meta]

    kaleberg, a CD is a physical medium which contains data; software refers to the programming that is run by software.

    (Also, who needs the OED when one has the internet? ;) )

  34. 34
    bad Jim

    In the early 70′s I bought a copy of the American Heritage dictionary (1st edition) not least because it defined all the dirty words. It’s outdated now, of course, because it defines atheist as “one who denies the existence of God”. Later editions use “disbelieves or denies”, in accordance with current usage.

    As regards marriage, it includes some non-gendered meanings: “2. The act of marrying or the ceremony of being married; a wedding. 3. Any close union: a true marriage of minds. 4. The combination of the king and queen of the same suit, as in pinochle.”

  35. 35
    doubter

    My inner bibliophile lusts after the 20-volume full edition of the OED. However, it costs £5000! That’s what I call a wealth of knowledge…

  36. 36
    left0ver1under

    Given that OED is an English dictionary (from England, the US editions are just offshoots), I doubt those dumb enough to burn it even know it exists. Teabaggers probably think Webster wrote the first English language dictionary.

    I’ve lost count of how many ignoramuses have criticized my spellings of words like spelt, colour, or encyclopaedia – especially those who couldn’t compose a proper English sentence while doing so.

  37. 37
    left0ver1under

    Ah Clem (#4)

    I liked the fact that virtually any combination of letters that is allowed in English used to be a word of some kind, & almost every spelling mistake ever made turns out to be a variant that has been acceptable somewhere, at some time.

    If the book is so insistent on inclusion of minutiae, maybe we should call it the OCD dictionary.

  38. 38
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Anthony K:

    Hindsight, l’esprit de l’escalier and all that

    While the expression “l’esprit de l’escalier” became popular with English speakers after being mentioned in “Foreign terms English needs”-type articles, there actually is an English term for it: afterwit.

  39. 39
    Rich Woods

    @left0ver1under #36:

    I’ve lost count of how many ignoramuses have criticized my spellings of words like spelt, colour, or encyclopaedia – especially those who couldn’t compose a proper English sentence while doing so.

    I wouldn’t criticise your spellings at all.

  40. 40
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re left0ver1under @36:

    I’ve lost count of how many ignoramuses have criticized my spellings of words like …

    Let me add to your count. Isn’t the plural of ignoramus “ignorami”?

    oops; from About.com:

    Sorry, but no. As with most singular nouns ending in -s, the plural of “ignoramus” is formed by adding -es. So when one ignoramus hooks up with another, you have a couple of ignoramuses.
    True, “ignoramus” is a Latin loan word, but it’s derived from a verb (“ignorare”)–unlike, say, “stimulus,” which comes from a noun and is one of the few Latin borrowings to retain the plural ending of -i.

    Similar to the fact that the plural of “octopus” is NOT “octopi”, but “octopuses”(or, more obscurely, “octopodes”). The point is; ending with -us, does not always indicate a Latin noun, to be pluralized with -i.
    oy vey, learn something new everyday. maybe not so ignorant anymore, but you can still add me to your count of ignorami ignoramuses.

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