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In America They Call Us Dykes: Notes On The Etymology And Usage Of "Dyke"

From Sinister Wisdom # 9 1979

By JR Roberts

The women-loving women
in America were called dykes
and some liked it
and some did not . ..
Judy Grahn, from “A History of Lesbianism”

In Sinister Wisdom 6, five Lesbians spoke intensely and articulately concerning the silences in our lives and how patriarchal language has been used
against us, how the fears of vulnerability and censure check our tongues,
rendering us powerless, isolated, and invisible . How the power to name is the
power to be. Lesbians have long been the object of vicious “name-calling”
designed to shut us up, make us shrivel and slink away. Dyke is one of the
words that has been negatively and violently flung at us for more than a
half century . In the Lesbian/Feminist 1970s, we broke the silence on this
tabooed word, reclaiming it for ourselves, assigning to it positive, political
values. The reclamation of dyke has also necessarily involved an historical/
etymological search for its origins. Our generation of Lesbians has been stymied, mystified, and intensely curious as to how and why we have come to
call ourselves dykes.

The term appears to have originated in the United States. Although dyke
is used in England, the terms lesbian, Sapphist, and butch have been traditional there (Partridge 1968). In the United States, dyke is a cross-cultural term found in both Anglo-American and African-American slang. In African-American slang, dyke, as it stands alone, does not seem to have been in widespread use as of 1970, but more commonly appeared in combination with bull to form bull-dyke, signifying an “aggressive female homosexual,” bull-dagger, boon-dagger, and bull-diker being variations. Bull was/is used in Black culture to indicate Lesbian (Major 1970; Berry ‘1972).(1)

The earliest known references using dyke or dike (an earlier? spelling no
longer in wide usage today) to describe “masculine” Lesbians, or Lesbians
generally, date to circa 1920s·1930s, indicating at least a half century of
usage.(2) Partridge indicates that dike denotes a “female homosexual” and that the term comes from the combination bull-dike (Partridge 1968), which
was used among Black people as early as circa 1920s-1930s (AC/DC Blues
1977). Godfrey Irwin, a compiler of tramp and underworld slang, likewise
supports this definition of bull-dike in a letter to Partridge dated September
18, 1937. During the thirties, bull-dike was also being used among prison
inmates at Sing Sing to indicate a woman who practiced oral sex on men
(Haragan 1935, as quoted by Partridge 1968). It is interesting that the homosexual bull-dike and the heterosexual bull-dike were both associated with
so-called “unnatural” and socially unapproved sexual behaviors . This is one
of many connections existing between homosexual slang, heterosexual slang,
and woman-hating slang.(3) By the 1940s we find dike or dyke listed in slang
dictionaries to indicate “masculine woman,” being synonymous with other
words signifying “Lesbian” (Berrey & Van Den Bark 1942 , 1947).

In the pre-Liberation forties, fifties , and sixties, “Lesbian slang” was often
role-related. Dyke/dike and butch were used to signify “masculine” Lesbians
who wore “men’s clothing” (Stanley , June 24 , 1977; Aldrich 1955 :54) .
“Feminine” Lesbians were femmes or fluffs (Vice Versa 1:6, November 1947).
Among Midwest Black Lesbians the words stud and fish were used respectively (Sawyer 1965). Special terms indicating varying degrees of “mannishness” were formed by adding prefixes, for example : bull-dyke, diesel dyke,
stompin ’ diesel dyke. As Lesbian linguist Julia Stanley indicates, dyke in our
own time, the Lesbian/Feminist seventies, has undergone a change in meaning from a once pejorative term to a politically charged definition. This has occurred within the liberation movements of Lesbians and gays. “To be a
dyke or a faggot,” writes Julia , “refers to one ’s political identity as a gay
activist . .. but redefining old terms that have been pejoratives for so long
is not an easy process, nor is it something that takes place overnight. Among
women, new definitions are being made among usages of old terms. As we
redefine the old pejorative labels making them our own, what we choose to
call ourselves also takes on political meaning, defining one’s political position”
(Stanley 1974:390-391).

The personal is political. The personal is also historical. On many levels
we Lesbians today have experienced historical/political transformations.
Sometimes it is possible to recall an exact time and place where transformations occurred. Although I don’t ever recall having used the word dyke in the old pejorative sense, I do remember when I first began using dyke in a liberated sense. It was late 1973; I had just “come out” via the Lesbian/
Feminist Movement. During a conversation with an older Lesbian friend who
had come out years earlier without the aid of a movement, I referred to the
two of us as dykes . Her reaction was equivalent to “Hey, wait a minute!
Watch yer mouth!”, as if I had uttered some terrible obscenity . She then
proceeded to enlighten me as to the older, negative meaning . But, I said, I
don’t see it that way at all. To me dyke is positive; it means a strong, independent Lesbian who can take care of herself. As I continued with the movement, dyke took on even stronger political implications than “activist.” It
signified woman-identified culture, identity, pride and strength - women, alone and together, who live consciously and deliberately autonomous lives ,
no longer seeking definitions or approvals according to male values. Soon
my older friend also began identifying positively with the word dyke.

Exercising this new power of self-definition, we now have a variety of
names and definitions with which to describe our many political selves. Our
Lesbian lifestyle is very diverse, and our use of language and choice of names
and definitions reflect our many cultural, racial, ethnic, class, regional, and
political backgrounds, as well as our generational perspectives. Today the
straight world continues to use dyke in the old pejorative sense. There are a
number of Lesbians who do also, and are repulsed by it. These Lesbians may
not have been exposed to the current movement, or, being concerned with
their status and survival in the straight world, they may reject the term as
harmful. There is also a segment of the Lesbian population which grew up ,
came out , and participated in the earlier Lesbian culture before 1970 who
retain the negative definition they have always known . So the definition of
dyke has changed only for some Lesbians, not for all.

There are some questions to be wondered about. If dyke has different
definitions today, is it possible that there were different definitions in earlier
times? Did all Lesbians before the 1970s generally define dyke negatively?
Was it such a distasteful term, or were there those Lesbians who felt a sense
of pride at being labeled dyke? What did it mean to them? Where did the
American tradition of the “mannish” Lesbian as dike/dyke come from?
The term dike or dyke had probably been around to some extent before
the 1930s-1940s when it first began to be documented in slang dictionaries.
Slang terms often originate among special groups, some of which are “outcasts” of mainstream society whose members feel alienated from the values of the dominant culture. Such groupings may be based on age, race, ethnic, or class background. Among such groups have been the younger generation, Blacks, hoboes, criminals, street people, artists and writers, gays and Lesbians.

The creation of new words and new definitions for old words serves a social
and political purpose: it may constitute an act of power and rebellion for
those who feel and are powerless; or it may provide a sense of validation
and identity denied by the dominant culture, thus becoming a source of
social/cultural cohesion and pride - a language of one’s own. A new language
helps to articulate a new society. Some slang terms may even be adopted
by the dominant culture, eventually becoming “Standard English,” or they
may fall into disuse or remain the linguistic property of the special group.
Slang terms may be collected and listed in published lexicons, dictionaries ,
and thesauri. Definitions may change with time. These are slow, complicated
evolutions influenced by social, economic, political, and intellectual ideas
and events in the dominant culture and among those outcast groups.

Currently, there are several theories concerning the etymology of dyke or
dike, which are threaded together by the androgynous concept of the “manly-
woman.” Several have to do with ancient Greek legends. Poet Elsa Gidlow
raises the possibility that the word dyke may have had its origins in the
Greek word dike, that is Athene , the “manly-woman ” who is the principle
of total order (Stanley , June 24, 1977). There is also the related Flexner and
Wentworth (1975) hypothesis that dike probably came from hermaphrodite,the -dite being “clipped” off and later evolving into dike, due to a regional
(Coney Island??) mispronunciation. Cordova adds support to this hypothesis
when she reports conversations with older Lesbians who indicate the folk belief that the root word of dyke was once hermaphrodite, with its origins in
the Greek myth of Hermes and Aphrodite who join to create the androgynous
creature (Cordova 1974:22). Of the -dite to dike theory, Julia Stanley comments: “For reasons of my own, I’ve never bought the -dite to dike explanation, primarily because /t/ hardly ever becomes /k/ in natural languages. I’m not saying it’s impossible, especially in an unstressed syllable, where an alveolar might be heard as a velar, just that it’s unlikely” (Stanley, June 24, 1977).

My own recent research has turned up an interesting, but never before
cited, usage of dike dating from late nineteenth and early twentieth century
America, representing another possible, and perhaps more viable, origin, based in the social customs of the people rather than in classical allusion. Both
Schele de Vere (1871) and Clapin (1902) in their compilations of Americanisms indicate dike as denoting a man in full dress, or merely the set of male
clothing itself. Schele de Vere says this is a “peculiar American cant term,
as yet unexplained.” Clapin, however, indicates that dike likely resulted from
the corruption of the Old English dight (Anglo-Saxon origin). Dight meant
to dress, clothe; to adorn, deck oneself (Johnson, 2nd ed., 1827). In listing
dike, Mathews (1951) indicates a possible connection between dight and the
English dialect dick, both of which meant “to deck or adorn.” By 1856
dight was cited by Hall as being nearly obsolete in the United States, while
diked and diked out were in use. The word dike probably came to America
with the English at the time of colonization, but once in America other
usages may have developed . Both Clapin and Schele de Vere indicate that
dike was not only used as a verb, but also as a noun to describe a person of
either sex who was all dressed up. However, dike as a person or as a set of
clothing most often referred to the male sex.

There is growing evidence that during this same time period a number of
women in both the United States and Europe were adopting male attire, both
permanently and on occasion. Katz has called some of these women “Passing
Women” (Katz 1976: Ch. 3). These women dressed, lived, voted, worked -
literally “passed”-as men in the mainstream culture. Some were of the middle
and upper classes, or were artists. Others were independent, working class
women who took on the guise of men in order to survive in a world where
women had few options. As “men,” these women, some of whom were Lesbians, married other women and raised families. They could live and enjoy
their lives with women and still participate in the greater opportunities and privileges awarded to men. This choice was often based in explicit or covert
feminism. When discovered, however, these women were often punished by
society- arrested, fined, imprisoned, exposed, and forbidden to wear male
clothing. Sometimes the contemporary media picked up on the appearances
of these “she-men,” and a number of rather sensational articles appeared.
accompanied by photographs and drawings. Some of these graphics which
are reproduced in Katz indicate women dressed in a “full set of male clothing” - from hat to suit, to cane or umbrella, watch fobs and chains, to vests
and shoes. Lesbians and other radical women - such as the feminist Mary C. Walker, Harriet Hosmer, and Edmonia Lewis, the Black/Native American sculptor-were also dressing in much the same manner in the United States and Europe, not especially for the purpose of “passing” as men, but for the real and implied emotional, political, and social freedoms inherent in the male costume.
This radical expression of emancipation (which has centuries of tradition behind it) continued well into the twentieth century and included both women of color and white women.

It seems possible that in the American culture where the term dike denoted “the full set of male clothing” or “a man in full dress,” this term could also have been applied to women who dressed in such clothing. Possibly these early radical women, dressing and passing in male clothing, both permanently and on occasion, were in fact our first dike sisters in America.

Again, Julia Stanley, who feels that the above etymology for dyke is the
most viable she has heard, comments: “Your proposed etymology doesn’t
exclude the possibility that Wentworth and Flexner were correct in their
hypothesis. That is, you may have come up with the 'missing link’ in the
semantic development of the word dyke, since it is stretching it a bit to re-
late it to the Germanic ditch” (Stanley, June 24,1977).

If my hypothesis is correct, it could further be proposed that the meaning
of dike was changing during the time period from the late nineteenth century
to circa 1930s-1940s, that dike had begun passing from a predominantly
positive male and/or neutral meaning to a derogatory female slang term.
Linguistically, it may have gone through a process called “degeneration of
meaning.” By the 1930s dike, preceded by the equally tabooed bull, had
been assigned sexual and derogatory meanings which could be applied both
to Lesbians and to heterosexual women practicing tabooed sexual behaviors.
By the 1940s-1950s-1960s the pejorative term dike/dyke was almost exclusively applied to “masculine” Lesbians, with other meanings becoming more obscure, though not yet obsolete. Linguists have found that this “process of degeneration” is a pattern often occurring to words which make such a male
to female transition.

For this same period of possible linguistic change, there is growing evidence
indicating a general altering of attitudes toward women’s relationships with each other.(4) Increasingly more negative aspects were being assigned to such relationships in the twentieth century than had been assigned them in the
nineteenth century. Medical and psychiatric science was labeling such relationships “unnatural,” “degenerate,” and “sick.” All manner of “masculine”
characteristics of both a biological and psychological nature were attached
to Lesbian women, as well as to other women who “deviated” from traditional , “god-given,” (male-defined) “ female roles.” Speculating once again -
since words and their meanings are used to reinforce the values of a given
society, it may be that the linguistic change described above was related to
the social/political change concerning definitions of Lesbianism and female
sex roles. If a concept is assigned negative values, then the language used to
describe that concept will also assume negative meaning. The language becomes a vehicle by which the value is perpetuated. Thus dike, once used to
describe a well-dressed male, becomes a vulgar and hateful epithet to be
hurled at women who rebel against confining roles and dress styles.

It is interesting to note how our “new” radical definitions echo the “old” radical traditions as signified by the term dike/dyke. Betty Birdfish, a friend
in Chicago , wrote to me about a Lesbian dance to be held there, and how
"wimmin are talking about 'dyking themselves up’ for it.” In my next letter,
I asked Betty exactly what that meant-“dyking ourselves up.” She responded :

About 'dyking ourselves up’: I think it can mean a whole lot of things.
In general, dressing up so one feels most beautiful, most proud of herself. I’ve seen that take many forms in the dyke community, at events.
For example, Allison with her hair in corn rows and beads, wearing African garb. Or Jogie with a tuxedo and panama hat. Or Beverly looking like
a gypsy with loose-flowing clothes, jewelry, scarves and wearing scented
oil. Or wimmin with tailored blazers and slacks and vests. Or even wimmin
with long-flowing ankle length skirts or dresses. Many interpretations.
Many expressions. For me 'dyking myself up’ has been getting more definite in its expression lately . For the dance I wore a pair of high-waisted
black slacks, a white shirt with tie and pin, and a black satin, double-breasted, padded-shouldered, very tailored, old jacket. I felt very strong
and beautiful in it. Before the dance, I had 'practiced’ dyking myself up
in a more radical way: I put on a different long sleeve shirt with collar
and a silk tie that has wimmin together painted on it. I put my hair up in
a bun, very close to my head so that it looked short, and put on a 'mannish’ (I wish I had another word) straw hat. I looked like old-timey photos
of Lesbians who you know had longer hair, who put it up, dyked up in
suits, waistcoats, or tuxedos . I liked the way I looked, but wasn’t ready
to go 'out’ yet in full dyke array. So I modified it for the dance . For me,
'dyking up’ means the tailored suit: elegant, comfortable and strong. I
guess I don’t see this wear as just a 'masculine ’ privilege - but clothing that
wimmin/dykes can wear to feel good in. I think I’m no longer as afraid
of feeling 'butchy’: to work on my body , to develop muscles and strength,
to be more active physically (sports , karate, etc.), to move with more
force, strength, confidence. I’m realizing how stifled I’ve been by society
which condemns this development in wimmin . And I realize how our own dyke community continues to condemn it by labelling it 'butchy’ and
therefore 'male-identified’ and therefore wrong. I don’t care anymore
(in my head-but not yet in my gut) about all those condemnations-I want to grow in ways I know I’ve always wanted to.
(Betty Birdfish, August 4, 1977)

For the Lesbian of yesteryear, getting “diked up” may have had the same
exhilarating, liberating, and fearful effects it has for contemporary Lesbians,
but even more so since few women at that time wore pants. To wear “male
clothing” before the advent of trousers for women and the so-called “unisex”
fashions of today, was indeed radical and revolutionary. It signified a rebellion against male-defined roles for women, which “women’s clothing” symbolized and perpetuated by rendering women passive, dependent, confined, and vulnerable. Yet this autonomous act of rebellion also made women vulnerable to punishment, ridicule, and ostracism.(5)

Dike/dyke need not remain a vulgar epithet of self-hate, shame, and
negativism, a term signifying “masculine.” This is the definition which a
heterosexist, dyke-hating society has formulated and which many Lesbians
past and present have unquestioningly accepted. By defining some of us as
“men” and some of us as “women,” society has sought to divide us, to create
inequality based on heterosexual roles, thereby defusing the political power
of women loving women, reducing it to a pseudo-heterosexuality which,
according to their thinking, is both artificial and inferior to the “real thing.”
Dike/dyke still remains a word hidden in history. But this new etymology
suggests the possibility of some quite radical origins. Rather than wincing
at the word dyke, we might better remember and commemorate those early
Lesbians and feminists who refused “women’s clothing” and “women’s roles.”
They may have been our first dyke sisters.


Notes

(1)Bull was a tabooed word circa early twentieth century, not to be used in mixed company, signifying “the male of the species,” Less offensive terms like “top cow” were often substituted. Bull bitch was a rural term applied to “masculine” women (Wentworth 1944; Wentworth and Flexner 1975).

(2) Earlier, at the turn of the century, dyke was one of many slang terms denoting the vulva (Farmer and Henley 1890-1904 : 338).

(3)See “Sexist Slang and the Gay Community: Are You One, Too?” by Julia Stanley and Susan W. Robbin s. Available from 1. Stanley , Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln , Nebraska 68588.

(4) See Carroll Smith Rosenberg , “Th e Female World of Love and Ritual : Relations between Women in Nineteenth Century America,” Signs I : I (Autumn 1975) : 1-19 ; AIice Echols, “The Demise of Female Intimacy in the Nineteenth Century or There wasn’t a Dyke in the Land,’” unpublished paper, n .d .. 34 pp.

(5) It should be noted that these vulnerabilities were not experienced by women only in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As late as 1968, Lesbians were being arrested in Dallas and Houston, Texas for wearing “men’s clothing.” See: “Special Release to the Ladder.” The Ladder 13: ½ (October/November 1968):4041; “Who Can Tell Boys from Girls.” The Ladder 13: ½ (October/November 1968) :41-42

SOURCES
AC/DC Blues: Gay Jazz Reissues, Vol. l. St-l06, Stash Records, Mattituck, New York,1977.

Aldrich, Ann. We Walk Alone. New York: Fawcett, 1955.

Berrey, Lester V. and Van den Bark, Melvin. American Thesaurus of Slang. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1942, 1947.

Berry, Leonard J.Prison. N.p.: Subsistence Press, 1972.

Betty Birdfish (Alwin). Letter to JR Roberts. Chicago, Illinois (August 4,1977). Collection of JR Roberts.

Clapin, Sylva. A New Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Louis Weiss, 1902.

Cordova, Jeanne. “What’s in a Name?” Lesbian Tide (June 1974):21-22 .

Farmer, 1.S. and Henley , W.E. Slang and Its Analogues (J890-1904) . Reprinted ed. , New York: Arno Press, 1970.

Hall, Benjamin H. A Collection of College Words and Customs. 2nd ed. Cambridge: John Bartlett, 1856 (1851). Reprinted ed ., Detroit: Gale Research, 1968.

Hargan, James. “The Psychology of Prison Language.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 30 (1935):359-365. (Note: the “more unprintable expressions” such as bull-dike were omitted from the published list, but were available upon request to those who were “especially interested in the subject.”)

Johnson , Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language. 3 vols. 2nd ed. London: Longman , Rees, Orne, Brown, and Green et al., 1827.

Katz, Jonathan. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A . New York:Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976. Pb., Avon, 1978.

Major, Clarence. Dictionary of Afro·American Slang. New York : International Publishers,1970.

Mathews, Mitford. A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles. 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.

Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. 7th ed. 1967; Supplement 1970. New York: MacMillan, 1970.

Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. 3rd ed. London : Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1968.

Schele de Vere, Maximillian. Americanisms: The English of the New World. New York: Charles Scribner and Co., 1872.

Stanley, Julia P. Letter to JR Roberts. Lincoln, Nebraska (June 24, 1977). Collection of JR Roberts.

Stanley, Julia P. “When We Say 'Out of the Closets!’” College English (November 1974): 385-39l.

Sawyer, Ethel. “Study of a Public Lesbian Community.” Masters Thesis, Washington University. St. Louis, Missouri. 1965 .

Vice Versa 1:6 (November 1947) . (Includes discussion of role-related slang; examined by Elizabeth Bouvier at the Homosexual Information Center Library, Hollywood, Calif.)

Wentworth, Harold. American Dialect Dictionary. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1944.

Wentworth, Harold and Flexner, Stuart B. Dictionary of American Slang. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.

Latin Lesson: The Chocobros

By popular request, I created a post detailing the Latin in Final Fantasy XV. The post was so long, however, I decided to split the post to make it easier on the eyes and the brain. Thus, I will be covering the Final Fantasy XV Latin over several lessons. Perhaps once a week?

In any case, our first Latin Lesson will be our four Best Boys: Noctis Lucis Caelum, Gladiolus Amicitia, Ignis (Stupeo) Scientia, and Prompto Argentum. As you’ll see across the lessons, “night” and “darkness” are common naming themes in Final Fantasy XV. Further, pay extra attention to Noctis’ name used in phrases and the others’ names as it relates to their personality. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)


Pronunciation

Before we begin, I want to note the pronunciations of Latin in Final Fantasy XV. In most cases—but not all—the characters uses Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation rather than Classical Latin pronunciation. I made a comparison below; bold indicates the pronunciation the game uses, if any.

Name | Classical | Ecclesiastical | Alternate
Noctis | nohk-tis | nohk-tis
Lucis | loo-kis | loo-sis | loo-shis
Caelum | kahy-loom | tsee-lum | kahy-lum
Gladiolus | gla-dee-ohl-oos | gla-dee-ohl-uhs
Amicitia | ah-mi-kee-tee-ah | ah-mi-tsee-tee-uh 
Ignis | ig-nis | i-nis
Stupeo | stoo-pay-oh | stoo-pay-oh
Scientia | skee-en-tee-ah | see-en-shee-uh
Prompto | prohmpt-oh | prohmpt-oh | prompt-oh
Argentum | ahr-ɡehn-toom | ahr-jen-tum


Chocobros

Noctis Lucis Caelum

Noctis: genitive singular of nox.

  • nox, noctis (f): night; darkness; blindness; obscurity. nocte, noctū: by night. nocte: during the night.

Lucis: genitive singular of lūx; dative plural and ablative plural of lūcus.

  • lūx, lūcis (f): light (of the sun, stars, etc.); daylight, day; splendor; eyesight; life; (fig) public view; glory, encouragement, enlightenment. lūce: in the daytime. prīma lūce: at daybreak. lūce carentēs: the dead.
  • lūcus, lūcī (m): grove (sacred to a deity); wood.

Caelum: nominative singular, accusative singular, and vocative singular of caelum.

  • caelum1 , caelī (nt): heaven; sky; climate, weather, air; (fig) height of success, glory. caelum ac terrās miscēre: create chaos. ad caelum ferre: extol. dē caelō dēlāpsus: a messiah. dē caelō servāre: watch for omens. dē caelō tangī: be struck by lightning. digitō caelum attingere: be in the seventh heaven. in caelō esse: be overjoyed.
  • caelum2 , caelī (nt): graving-tool, chisel.

Gladiolus Amicitia

Gladiolus: nominative singular of gladiolus, diminutive of gladius.

  • gladiolus, gladiolī (m): small sword, knife.
  • gladius, glad(i)ī (m): sword; (fig) murder, death. gladium stringere: draw the sword. suō sibi gladiō iugulāre: beat at his own game.

Amicitia: nominative singular, ablative singular, and vocative singular of amīcitia.

  • amīcitia, amīcitiae (f): friendship, alliance, affinity.

Ignis (Stupeo) Scientia

Ignis: nominative singular, genitive singular, vocative singular, and accusative singular of ignis.

  • ignis, ignis (m): fire, a fire; firebrand; lightning; brightness, redness; (fig) passion, glow of passion, love.

Stupeo: present active participle of stupeō.

  • stupeō, stupēre, stupuī, stupītum: (vi) to be stunned, to benumbered; (vi) to be astonished, to be stupified; (vi) to be brought to a standstill; (vt) to marvel at.

Scientia: nominative singular, genitive singular, and vocative singular of scientia; nominative neuter plural, accusative neuter plural, and vocative neuter plural of sciēns, the present active participle of sciō.

  • scientia, scientiae (f): knowledge; understanding, expert knowledge; skill.
  • sciēns, scientis (adj): expert, knowledgeable; knowing, purposefully; versed in, acquainted with.
  • sciō, scīre, scīvī, scītum (v): to know; to know of; to have skill in; (with infinitive) to know how to. prō certō: know for certain. quod sciam: as far as I know. scītō: you may be sure.

Prompto Argentum

Prompto: dative masculine singular, dative neuter singular, ablative masculine singular, and ablative neuter singular of prōmptus; present active participle of prōmptō. Prōmptus is also a noun which is the present passive participle of prōmō, but neither word has the inflection promptō.

  • prōmptus1 , prōmpta, prōmptum (adj): plainly visible, evident; at hand, ready, prompt, quick; resolute; easy; glib, insincere.
  • promptō, promptāre (vt): to distribute
  • prōmptus2 , prōmptūs (m). in prōmptū sum: be in full view; be obvious; be within easy reach for use.
  • prōmō, prōmere, prōmpsī, prōmptum (v): to take, to bring out, to bring forth; to bring into view; to bring out on the stage, to display on the stage; to produce; to disclose, to make known.

Argentum: nominative singular, accusative singular, and vocative singular of argentum.

  • argentum, argentī (nt): silver; silver plate; money.

Sources

  • Marr, V. (ed.). (2003). Collins Latin concise dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers, New York.
  • Morwood, J. (ed.). (2005). Oxford Latin desk dictionary. Oxford University Press, New York.
nytimes.com
A Journey Into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory
Kory Stamper reveals the secret life of dictionaries in her book “Word by Word,” and in a visit to headquarters (oddities in the basement included).
By Jennifer Schuessler

Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in America, has turned itself into a social media powerhouse over the past few years. Its editors star in online videos on hot-button topics like the serial comma, gender pronouns and the dreaded “irregardless.” Its Twitter feed has become a viral sensation, offering witty — and sometimes pointedly political — commentary on the news of the day.

But the company remains very much a bricks-and-mortar operation, still based in this small New England city where the Merriam brothers bought the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary in the 1840s and carried on his idea of a distinctly American language.

mediocrelanguage-learner  asked:

how did you decide which books to buy for learning polish?

the most important thing for me when buying books is to spend as little money as possible so i usually go check them out in a bookstore first and then order them online at a fraction of the price - all prices are in australian dollars and include shipping

polish verbs & essentials of grammar - i already have norwegian verbs & essentials of grammar from the same publisher so i knew the format and quality of the book would be reliable and the content explained in a way that i will be able to understand easily - $16.81 (bookdepository)

teach yourself polish (book and cd) - again i already have the norwegian equivalent of this book and i have also used teach yourself for german in the past. a brand new copy of this would have cost me upwards of $80 in store but i managed to find a secondhand copy for a lot less - $11 (ebay)

pons basiswörterbuch polnisch - i couldnt find a comprehensive dictionary published in english that wasnt gonna cost me an arm and a leg so i decided to get one in german. i went with pons instead of langenscheidt because it was much cheaper and also included a free download of the desktop version of the dictionary - $21.07 (ebay)

lonely planet polish phrasebook - ive used lonely planet phrasebooks for both german and mandarin so im very familiar with the layout. i sometimes take a phrasebook out and about in my pocket to brush up on my skills if i get stuck waiting around for something without the commitment of carrying a whole pile of heavy books around - $8.80 (ebay)

Merriam-Webster has a message for the Trump administration: There is no such thing as an “alternative fact.” There are facts, and then there are falsehoods.

That memo was at least implied this week when the dictionary publisher tweeted the definition of a fact just hours after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet The Press and referred to statements by White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the inaugural crowd size as “alternative facts.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Has Been Trolling Trump On Twitter For Months

Photo: Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Laha Magazine, Editorial “Dictionary of Couture”, published April 2017. Maison Margiela Artisanal by John Galliano, Look 6 from Spring 2017 collection.

Photographer Tess Feuilhade, Model Laura Jaraminaite, styled by Oxana Korolevskaia. Fashion Editor Laila Hamdaoui

These images are from A Musical Dictionary, by James Grassineau, published in 1740. Grassineau wrote the dictionary while working for the composer J.C. Pepusch in London.

-Jennifer Needham

Full citation:

Grassineau, James. A musical dictionary; being a collection of terms and characters, as well ancient as modern; including the historical, theoretical, and practical parts of music … The whole carefully abstracted from the best authors in the Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and English languages. London: J Wilcox, 1740.

Random story of the day:

Mapmakers often put secrets in their maps as copyright traps, to make sure no one copies their maps. For example, some map makers put fake streets in maps, sometimes fake features. If they see a map that has that street, they know it was copied from them.

Similarly, in 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary published a new word: Esquivalience, meaning “Willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities”. It was a made up word, a copyright trap to make sure no other dictionaries copied them. If anyone copied their dictionary, the stealer wouldn’t be able to come up with a source except for the New Oxford. (Dictionary.com fell for this trap)

Another example of a copyright trap was when the author of The Trivia Encyclopedia put a false fact in his book, because he was certain that the makers of the game Trivial Pursuit were taking his facts for the game. (The false fact was that “TV detective Columbo’s first name was Phillip” when the show never specified his name. Sure enough, the ‘fact’ showed up in Trivial Pursuit. 

anonymous asked:

silly question, but is there a word in any given language that stands for "a lover of forest" not nature, just forest.. ? sorry for bothering and good day <3

Nemophily is the fondness for forest scenery. It is the love of the woods. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co.) A nemophilist is someone who loves the forest and its beauty and solitude, and referred to as a “haunter of the woods”.

Also, there’s the word waldeinsamkeit, or a “woodland solitude”. This German word indicates the feeling of being alone in the woods ― described as something wonderful, poetic, peaceful, calm, relaxed, and at one with nature.

This is a good article I found a while back concerning Halloween:

When we became followers of Jesus Christ there were many practices we put behind us; lying, immorality, drunkenness, brawling, etc. We accepted the clear teaching of Holy Scripture that a believer should not make such habits a practice in his life. Many, however, feel that the bible is not so clear in condemning the believer’s participation in the celebration of Halloween. They would say that it is a “gray area” where each man must be convinced in his own mind. Is this true? Let us examine, from a biblical and historical perspective, what the bible has to say about the revelry of October 31st.

Reference materials are in general agreement about the origins of the practices of Halloween:

Now a children’s holiday, Halloween was originally a Celtic festival for the dead, celebrated on the last day of the Celtic year, Oct. 31. Elements of that festival were incorporated into the Christian holiday of All Hallows’ Eve, the night preceding All Saints’ (Hallows’) Day.

Customs and superstitions gathered through the ages go into the celebration of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, the Christian festival of All Saints. It has its origins, however, in the autumn festivals of earlier times.

The ancient Druids had a three-day celebration at the beginning of November. They believed that on the last night of October spirits of the dead roamed abroad, and they lighted bonfires to drive them away. In ancient Rome the festival of Pomona, goddess of fruits and gardens, occurred at about this time of year. It was an occasion of rejoicing associated with the harvest; and nuts and apples, as symbols of the winter store of fruit, were roasted before huge bonfires. But these agricultural and pastoral celebrations also had a sinister aspect, with ghosts and witches thought to be on the prowl.

Even after November 1 became a Christian feast day honoring all saints, many people clung to the old pagan beliefs and customs that had grown up about Halloween. Some tried to foretell the future on that night by performing such rites as jumping over lighted candles. In the British Isles great bonfires blazed for the Celtic festival of Samhain. Laughing bands of guisers (young people disguised in grotesque masks) carved lanterns from turnips and carried them through the villages.

In ancient Britain and Ireland, October 31 was celebrated as the end of summer. In later centuries it was the opening of the new year and was the occasion for setting huge bonfires on hilltops to drive away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on that day, and the annual fall festival acquired sinister connotations, with evil spirits, ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, and demons wandering about.

Halloween, name applied to the evening of October 31st, preceding the Christian feast of Hallowmas, Allhallows, or All Saints’ Day. The observances connected with Halloween are thought to have originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on that evening, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. The Druids customarily lit great fires on Halloween, apparently for the purpose of warding off all these spirits. Among the ancient Celts, Halloween was the last evening of the year and was regarded as a propitious time for examining the portents of the future. The Celts also believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their earthly homes on that evening. After the Romans conquered Britain, they added to Halloween features of the Roman harvest festival held on November 1 in honor of Pomona, goddess of the fruits of trees.

The Celtic tradition of lighting fires on Halloween survived until modern times in Scotland and Wales, and the concept of ghosts and witches is still common to all Halloween observances. Traces of the Roman harvest festival survive in the custom, prevalent in both the United States and Great Britain, of playing games involving fruit, such as ducking for apples in a tub of water. Of similar origin is the use of hollowed-out pumpkins, carved to resemble grotesque faces and lit by candles placed inside.

So, according to secular sources, the traditions of Halloween are based upon the worship of false gods, contact with the dead, foretelling the future, and communing with evil spirits. Does the bible have anything to say about these practices?

The worship of false gods is condemned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments and is emphasized so strongly that it is the very first of the commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

In Exodus 20:2-3 the Lord writes with His own hand: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

In Deuteronomy 11:16 He warns the Israelites: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.”

The Psalmist warns in Psalm 81:9: “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god.

John even closes the “Love Letter” of 1 John with the admonition to “…keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

The passage in the bible that most directly addresses the customs mentioned above is Deuteronomy 18:9-14, where we read: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.

In Amos 5:14 The Lord tells Israel, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” He goes on in the next verse to say, “Hate evil, love good.” Even though one may be making a profession of faith, Amos is clearly saying that the Lord Almighty is not with those who are actually seeking evil, instead of good. Peter reminds us of this when he says “…the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).

At this point some may say, “But all of that was ages ago. None of that significance remains. It is now a harmless kids holiday, isn’t it?” Let’s see just what significance, if any, there is in the modern holiday of Halloween.

Rowan Moonstone (a pseudonym), a self-described witch, has written a pamphlet entitled “The Origins of Halloween,” in which he seeks to defend Halloween from the “erroneous information” contained in “woefully inaccurate and poorly researched” Christian tracts on the subject. Following are excerpts from the question and answer style article.

  • Where does Halloween come from?

Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic fire festival called “Samhain”. The word is pronounced “sow-in,” with “sow” rhyming with cow.

  • What does “Samhain” mean?

The Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows: “Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the half year is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess). The Scottish Gaelis Dictionary defines it as “Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin = end of summer.” Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a “lord of death” as such.

Okay, it is possible that the name of the god and the name of the celebration got mixed up in someone’s research. Note that he still admits it was a “feast of the dead.” He then describes its significance:

  • What does it have to do with a festival of the dead?

The Celts believed that when people died, they went to a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who lived in the numerous mounds or sidhe (pron. “shee”) that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside. Samhain was the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning points, such as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next were seen as magickal times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these times. This was the time when the “veil between the worlds” was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in Tir nan Og.

  • What other practices were associated with this season?

Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were performed via such methods as ducking for apples, and apple peeling. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

So from the pen of a defender of the holiday we find that pretty much all that has been said about the holiday by the encyclopedia’s cited earlier, with the possible exception of the faulty association of god status on the name Samhain, is true. Toward the end of the article Mr. Moonstone makes what seems to be, for our purposes, the most telling statement of all:

  • Does anyone today celebrate Samhain as a religious observance?

Yes. Many followers of various pagan religions, such as Druids and Wiccans, observe this day as a religious festival. They view it as a memorial day for their dead friends, similar to the national holiday of Memorial Day in May. It is still a night to practice various forms of divination concerning future events. Also, it is considered a time to wrap up old projects, take stock of ones life, and initiate new projects for the coming year. As the winter season is approaching, it is a good time to do studying on research projects and also a good time to begin hand work such as sewing, leather working, woodworking, etc. for Yule gifts later in the year.

So, according to a witch, for Druids and Wiccans the day still holds religious significance. It is a festival during which “various forms of divination” are practiced. This position is supported in the following article. A witch is giving tips to other homeschooling witches at a website entitled “Halloween: October Festival of the Dead”.

Origins: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween or Samhain once marked the end of grazing, when herds were collected and separated for slaughter. For farmers, it is the time at which anything not made use of in the garden loses its’ life essence, and is allowed to rot. Halloween is the original new year, when the Wheel of the Year finishes: debts are paid, scores settled, funereal rites observed and the dead put to rest before the coming winter. On this night, the veil between our world and the spirit world is negligible, and the dead may return to walk amongst us. Halloween is the night to ensure that they have been honored, fed and satisfied–and is the best time of the year for gaining otherworldly insight through divination and psychic forecasting. Recognition of the unseen world and the ordinary person’s access to it, as well as the acceptance of death as a natural and illusory part of life is central to the sacred nature of this holiday.

Note her use of the present tense to describe the various aspects of Halloween. Of special interest is the term “sacred nature of this holiday.” Further down the webpage, in an article entitled “Elemental Homeschooling,” she gives the following suggestions for how to enlighten your children on (and about) Halloween:

As much fun as it is for children to get great bags of sweets at Halloween, the origins of this time of year are sacred and meaningful. It is the time when nature appears to die, so it becomes natural to consider those who have passed away to the spirit world. Bring out pictures of your ancestors and re-tell the old family stories to those who haven’t heard them yet. Remind yourself where you come from. Water is the element of Autumn, and the fluidity of emotion is most apparent in the Fall. We retreat within, burrow down into our homes in order to stay warm for the coming winter. We look within, and easily seek inner communication. Halloween is the perfect time to link the deepening of emotion with finding new ways to search for interior wisdom. Likewise, this is a fun and exciting holiday: theatrics, costuming, and acting out new personas express our ability to change. Here are some ideas for integrating this holy day with homeschooling lessons.

Methods of inner communication with divination tools: tarot, palmistry, astrology, dream journaling … ? archetypes: fairy tales, storytelling the Dark Ages, the medieval era, issues about superstition and eternal truths, skeletons: the skeletal system, organs, anatomy …issues about death, persecution (using the Burning Times as a beginning point for older children), mysteries, the spirit world night: nocturnal animals, bodies of water: rivers, lakes, ocean, ponds …

Once again she uses the present tense and describes Halloween as a “Holy Day.” She also advocates many of the activities specifically condemned by Deuteronomy 18:9-12. Obviously, there is a lot more to Halloween than some costumed kids gathering a stomach ache worth of candy. It is clearly a festival of the Kingdom of Darkness.

The scripture has a lot to say about participating in such activities:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you’” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to “avoid every kind of evil.”

Jesus said it best in John 3:19-21: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

Finally, Paul gives us an idea for a costume to be worn on Halloween (or any) night in Romans 13:12: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

There will certainly be people who will still rationalize ways to participate, at some level, in the festivities of Halloween. To this the Lord replies in Proverbs 3:7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil,” and Proverbs 8:13To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Will we seek to push the boundaries of our faith to see just how far we can go? Or will we seek to serve the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

The Lord equates Spiritual maturity with the ability to discern good and evil. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should “stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20). The author of Hebrews makes it even more clear when he says “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

For those who would still insist that they can participate in such activities with a clear conscience, there is another aspect to think about: the example you are to those around you.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

It is curious to note that in the same breath that Paul says “Love must be sincere” he says “Hate what is evil; Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). If we have sincere love for our brethren we will do all that we can to set a good example and not be a stumbling block to them.

Romans 14-16:23:
Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

1 Corinthians 8:7-13:
However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

The weak or new brother who sees or hears of one of us participating in Halloween may be led or feel pressured to participate himself, even though he does not have a clean conscience about the activity. For him then the activity is clearly sin, because it does not come from faith. This brother would have been pushed toward this sinful state by your indulgence.

Consider another aspect of this; who among us is weaker than our children? Can we take the risk of them seeing us participating, however marginally, in an activity rife with occultism? Jesus had harsh words for those who would cause such little ones to stumble! (Matthew 18:6) We work so hard at protecting them from the evil world around them, will we then be guilty of corrupting them for the sake of a celebration of that very evil? “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The best thing we can do for our relationship with Jesus is devote ourselves entirely to Him.

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).

How fixed on Jesus can our eyes be if we are spending a night, or even an evening, thinking on darkness? So let’s press on to know the Lord!

Simply put, that holiday and its symbols originated not in the Bible but with people deceived by the devil to worship FALSE (pagan) gods. No true believer in God should be involved in Halloween, with its celebration of pain, suffering, evil, and death - not to mention its worship (at times cleverly disguised) of God’s adversary. Of course, if there is no God, it does not make any difference. However, God EXISTS, and He clearly forbids indulging in evil practices! For all its trappings and ‘fun’ Halloween is condemned by God and should be avoided by Christians.

Many churches lately have a “Hallow Him” celebration during that day, which seeks to praise God with their community and for anyone who wants a safe alternative to that demonic Halloween celebration. Christians shouldn’t hide at Halloween, we should use it as a time to minister to unbelievers in our community. Give them a free place to come as a safe alternative to Halloween. A place to eat, listen to gospel music, be in the company of loving and caring people, and most of all a place to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3

Noah Webster and the first American Dictionary

Few people have had an influence on a nation like Noah Webster.  Born in 1758, Webster attended Yale University at the age of 16 during the Revolutionary War, then studied law, estimating his liberal education no way to make a living.  He was given a loan by Alexander Hamilton to move to New York to edit the Federalist Papers.  An incredibly prolific student and writer, Webster wrote dozens of books and articles on a vast range of topics from politics to health and science to spellers.  His lasting legacy however, has to be his masterwork An American Dictionary of the English Language, the first exhaustive and academic approach to American English published.  Not only did Webster simplify (and therefore institutionalize) American spelling, taking the U out of color and parlor, he changed words like centre and theatre to center and theater.  

Webster worked on the dictionary for over twenty years, and in the process learned over 20 languages to better understand the etymology and origin of words.  In addition to the Latin and Ancient Greek he learned in school and at Yale, Webster learned  German, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit.  The American Dictionary was first published on April 14, 1828 but cost meant that it would be decades before it saw wide use and acceptance.  The word etymology comes directly from the Ancient Greek word ετυμολογος etumologos from ετυμος etymos meaning true, real or correct.  Webster’s first dictionary had 70,000 definitions and only sold 2,500 copies in its first edition, and Webster never recovered from the debt incurred by the publication.  For over a century, Webster stood as the definitive work of American etymology and word meaning.  When researching words for this blog, one of my first references is often the Merriam-Webster iphone app.  We’ve come a long way since April 14, 1828, but it all started with Webster.

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It’s Miniature Monday, folks!

Today we have eight volumes from Miniature Dictionary Publisher’s, Inc., published circa 1925.  The firm was operated by the Minkus brothers in New York City, and frequently published miniature volumes of well-known works and dictionaries.  These books were often used to advertise businesses like banks, hotels and department stores; the business in question would have its named stamped on the back of each volume it sold.  None of these copies are stamped; but the leather wallet binding and gilt-stamped titles as well as the pink-edged text blocks are characteristic of MDP Inc.  Another charming thing about these books are their bookplates–I have never seen a miniature bookplate before!  These books have a wonderful feel to them—their chunky shape and soft leather bindings make them seem almost edible!  Stop by and see them before I eat them today!

Various Authors. The Little Webster, Love and Other Stories (2 ediitons), The Arabian Nights Entertainments, The Golden Treasury of English Songs, Don Quixote, Paradise Lost, Hamlet and Macbeth.  New York: Miniature Dictionary Publisher’s, Inc. 1925.  Charlotte Smith Miniatures Collection, Uncatalogued.  Gift of Carol Kapell in memory of Paula B. Deems

Information on the volumes gathered from: Edison, Julian I.. Miniature Book News #90: 1996 September.  St. Louis, Missouri.  UNT Digital Library.

See all of our Miniature Monday posts here

-Laura H. 

On Feb. 1, 1884, the first fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary was published. But that isn’t where the OED story begins.

It all started 27 years earlier, when a group of old brainy guys in London (they called themselves the Philological Society of London and, incidentally, they still exist) decided that all of the dictionaries then in existence were inadequate. By 1858, they had made official plans to remedy that problem. Their method? They recruited a boatload of volunteers to comb through all of English literature and record words and their usage on slips of paper.

One of the more famous of these volunteers was a man named W. C. Minor, an American surgeon who, it turns out, was doing the research from his cell in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Minor, a graduate of Yale and an officer in the Civil War, had been imprisoned for killing a man in London. (I wonder which volunteer was responsible for the dictionary’s definition of the word murder …)

By the time the first fascicle was published, our band of merry wordsmiths was not even close to the “M” section: It covered 8,365 words, or “a” through “ant.”

Photo: liz west via flickr

Smombie?! WTF?

German dictionary publisher Langenscheidt has chosen Smombie as the youth word of the year. The word Smombie, amalgamated from Smartphone and Zombie, describes someone who does not perceive his environment any longer because he keeps staring at his phone.

The jury has decided against the online voting, which had resulted in merkeln (to merkel) as the winner. This verb describes an attitude of slow or no decision making at all and to keep on muddling through, derived from the perceived style of governing of chancellor Angela Merkel.

The word Alpha-Kevin had been removed from the short list, as the organizers wanted to avoid the discrimination of actual persons. Alpha-Kevin means “the most stupid boy of all“ and is based on a scientific investigation which found out that pupils are to some extent graded by their name. Teachers were given identical essays to evaluate, which differed only by the name of the student written on the front page. In the end, essays from Kevins got worse grades than from Alexanders or Moritzes, as Kevin is a perceived lower-class name, while Alexander is associated with well-educated families.

But honestly, did anyone ever hear or use the word Smombie?

Keep reading