If you’re eagerly anticipating the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, be prepared to wait until 2034. You can blame the internet for the delay, which has made research easier but also leads to information overload. There are so many new words that the dictionary would be 40 volumes if it ever makes it to print, but expect it to be only online instead. For more on the new OED, read a profile of new editor Michael Proffitt.
I used to keep a notebook in my pocket in case I came across new words. That worked until I put my trousers in the washing machine.
The late 18th-century use of the word ‘huffle’ in the sense ‘perform fellatio’, for instance, was new to me, and indeed to the OED, which limply presents it as meaning only ‘to blow, or inflate’.
As Geoffrey Hughes noted in his excellent Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English, the more charged a swear word is the more susceptible it becomes to grammatical transformation. This means that the boundaries between nouns and adjectives and adverbs can all get completely fucked up by swear words, and before you know it the little fuckers are everywhere.
I’ve been hailed as a hero (hipster poets love me), gotten the rock star reception (by research librarians), and been dismissed with derision, thought possibly to be deranged
Fun Fact: British radio and television presenter Alan Partridge (a fictional character played by Steve Coogan) is referenced in not one, not two, but seven entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. Oh, you cheeky Brits.
Jonathan Dent offers a fascinating look at one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most challenging assignments for the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently as a young philologist, Tolkien was tasked with tracing the etymology of “walrus” – a tricky word “of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s.”