If you’re looking for imaginary words, this is the place to find them

Wednesday, 20 April, 2016

Suplegness, the condition of being nearly chosen or selected. Adclamance, the process of the addition or increase of crying out. Disgregent, something that performs the action of expulsion from the herd, Ungastrient, an indication of the reversal of the stomach. Ecmorphless, missing an external shape or form.

Are these words familiar to you? I didn’t think so… they’re actually taken from the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, being a compendium of imaginary words and their uses.

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Finding new words with which to define the Australian landscape

Monday, 10 August, 2015

Publishers of the Macquarie Dictionary, the definitive lexicon of Australian English, and New Zealand English, are looking to expand listed words that reference Australian landscape features. We’re talking things like creeks, gullies, lagoons, and billabongs.

And working with ABC Local Radio, the dictionary is asking people to submit photos of environmental features, together with a description thereof, that will be considered for inclusion in the online version of the tome. Here would be a good example of what they’re looking for.

OzPic is a joint project between ABC Local Radio and Macquarie Dictionary which aims to uncover some of those words and to supplement the definition given in the dictionary with a photograph – not just one picture but one from each region of Australia so that we can see how billabongs vary across the country, how the sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains differ from the granite rocks of the Tasmanian Tiers, and uncover other hidden gems along the way.

Via The Territories.

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What does tech talk mean? Introducing the Silicon Valley Dictionary

Tuesday, 14 July, 2015

A single word can have multiple meanings, or contexts. For a literal definition we can turn to say Dictionary.com, while the Urban Dictionary offers more… figurative interpretations.

The Silicon Valley Dictionary may then round out the trifecta, with descriptions of the more technical, information technology, related words and terms that are bandied about. Such as Linux Minters, a new one on me:

Engineers whose preference in OS is the Linux Mint operating system. They are irrationally smart and work so fast that they are said to literally mint code like machines.

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Forget peeling bananas, you may be using the wrong dictionary

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014

We know we’ve been eating apples the wrong way, and not peeling bananas correctly… you’ve probably spotted some of the dozens of videos and articles floating around in recent months gently breaking the news that you’ve not been doing something fairly basic, something you otherwise give no thought to, properly.

Well, hey hey, my my.

Here’s something I can for go though, it seems we’ve been using the wrong dictionaries all this time, or so says James Somers, who thinks many lexicons in use today leave a lot to be desired:

Worse, the words themselves take on the character of their definitions: they are likewise reduced. A delightful word like “fustian” – delightful because of what it means, because of the way it looks and sounds, because it is unusual in regular speech but not so effete as to be unusable, is described, efficiently, as “pompous or pretentious speech or writing.” Not only is this definition (as we’ll see in a minute) simplistic and basically wrong, it’s just not in the same class, English-wise, as “fustian.” The language is tin-eared and uninspired. It’s criminal: This is the place where all the words live and the writing’s no good.

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The secret life, and work, of a dictionary’s lexicographer

Friday, 4 April, 2014

Working as a lexicographer might seem like the ideal role for a wordsmith, or writer. Make no mistake, it’s not an easy task, but the work has an aspect to it that I hadn’t quite anticipated

Most of the time, the definition is pretty easy to deduce from the context, but sometimes it’s not. The hardest words to define are the smallest: “but,” “as,” “be,” “go,” “run” – words like that. You can spend months on one of those words, and you get so deep into in that you begin to look a little Uncanny Valleyish by the end of it: real people encounter you, and while you can have a conversation, they are put off by your empty, dead eyes which only stare inward at the diminishing point that was once your humanity.

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Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, cataloguing 2500 years of words in 90

Thursday, 16 June, 2011

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, a 21 volume edition of words used by the Babylonians, Assyrians and other ancient societies residing in Mesopotamia, a region that approximately encompassed present day Syria and Iraq, up to 4,500 years ago, has been completed after 90 years of work by etymologists at the University of Chicago.

Although originally named after the Assyrian language, scholars found that Assyrian was a dialect of another Semitic language, Akkadian. Over the years, researchers filled out millions of index cards with references to the use of 28,000 words. The entries for each word denote various meanings and reference the contexts and ways in which it was used.

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When is it time to officially adopt the change in a word’s meaning?

Tuesday, 12 April, 2011

While efforts are apparently under way to have l33t added to the dictionary (does a “word” that includes numbers even rate as a word?), another question worth considering is how long we should adhere to the old meaning of a word whose definition has changed.

But using a meaning on its way to extinction can be nobler than such exhibitionism. Balancing the possibility that you’ll confuse your audience, and the prospect of appearing pretentious or dorky, is the chance that the old meaning could be a really good meaning, which no other word conveys precisely.

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Sire, My Dame, I present the history of two honourable honorifics

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

“Sire” and “My Dame” – terms that if used today as honorifics might not see you accorded much respect – were forms of address in use from around about the thirteenth century, that have now been supplanted by the words sir and madam respectively.

The word “sire” is now considered archaic. But it was once used to refer to an authority or a person of general importance. The history of the word “madam” is similar to “sir.” The word derives from “my dame.” While the word “dame” is now usually considered offensive slang, it was once used to address a married woman or one in a position of authority.

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Oxford English Dictionary may be the Online English Dictionary

Friday, 3 September, 2010

The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (or OED), dubbed OED 3, may not be printed, and could only be available in electronic format.

A team of 80 lexicographers has been working on the third edition of the OED – known as OED3 – for the past 21 years. The dictionary’s owner, Oxford University Press (OUP), said the impact of the internet means OED3 will probably appear only in electronic form. The most recent OED has existed online for more than a decade, where it receives two million hits a month from subscribers who pay an annual fee of £240.

It’s interesting to learn that people are prepared pay £240 (about A$410 or US$370) for an annual subscription for a dictionary though.

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Siphons, ill-defined and misunderstood for almost a century

Thursday, 13 May, 2010

Not an example of a change in the use of language over time though, is the recent discovery by an Australian physicist, Stephen Hughes, that the definition of the word “siphon” has been incorrectly published for almost 100 years by the Oxford English Dictionary, and apparently, other reference books as well.

Dr Hughes claims he has discovered that the dictionary’s definition of the word “siphon” has been incorrect since 1911. The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, and many other dictionaries, stated that atmospheric pressure was the force behind a siphon. But in fact it is the force of gravity at work.

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