New words for a new year means tossing out some old ones, according to the Concise OED

As language marches on . . . the 12th edition of the Concise OED (released this year) tries to keep pace.  However, this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the C-OED. 

For those of you looking for a gift that’s bound to please for the next century, why not bookend your book lover’s collection with a 2011 COED and a 1911 Classic First Edition of the then Concise Oxford Dictionary (that it was for English was implied!).

From the Aug 18, 2011 OED blog

Although the first edition of 1911 drew on the great historical account of English, the Oxford English Dictionary, it was not simply an abridgement: it was a completely different kind of dictionary, one that sought primarily to cover the language of its own time. It recorded new words of the Edwardian period such as aeroplane, carburettor, motorist, radioactive, rag-time, and Zionism, although there are no entries for words such as computer, television, or cinema. There is, however, one for kinematograph, ‘contrivance for projecting in rapid succession on screen a series of instantaneous photographs, so as to give effect of motion’, while marconigram, ‘message sent by Marconi’s system of wireless telegraphy’, was 1911’s hi-tech equivalent of cloud computing.

The editors of the first edition, brothers Henry and Frank Fowler, stated that ‘we admit colloquial, facetious, slang, and vulgar expressions with freedom, merely attaching a cautionary label’. Among the slang words they included were flapper, ‘girl not yet out [in society]’, foozle, ‘do clumsily, bungle, make a mess of’, mag, ‘halfpenny’, piffle, ‘talk or act feebly, trifle’, and potty, ‘trivial, small’.

Sadly, the new edition has no room for tremendous words like brabble ‘paltry noisy quarrel’ and growlery ‘place to growl in, private room, den’ – what we might call a man cave these days. But the preoccupations of today’s Generation Y  have opened the door to some equally colourful vocabulary – how about momo, noob, nurdle, and woot?

Monks in frocks: changes in meaning

Much of the first edition still seems surprisingly modern, but meanings of many common words have of course changed, and definitions have a period charm. Take that for terrier, ‘kind of active & hardy dog with digging propensity’, or greet, ‘accost with salutation’. A blouse then was a ‘workman’s loose linen or cotton upper garment’, while a frock was a ‘monk’s long gown with loose sleeves’.

Among the new meanings added to the 12th edition of the Concise is one for follower, ‘someone who is tracking a particular person, group, etc. on a social networking site’. In dictionaries of current English some senses which have fallen into disuse have to be removed to make way for new ones such as this: for example, we no longer give the first edition’s sense of ‘man courting maidservant’. Another new sense is at friend, where the primary meaning hasn’t changed much since the first edition, though the definition there has a poetic quality that the current one perhaps lacks: ‘one joined to another in intimacy & mutual benevolence independent of sexual or family love’. It’s the secondary senses that have  changed – the new meaning is ‘a contact on a social networking website’, while the first edition had ‘person who acts for one, e.g. as second in duel’.

Indecent dancing in the naughty nineties

In 1911 the cancan was a relatively new thing, associated with the ‘naughty nineties’ (the 1890s) in Paris. The Fowlers were in no doubt about their opinion of this racy French craze – they defined it simply as ‘indecent dance’. (They weren’t the only Oxford authors with a lofty attitude towards the cancan: Percy Scholes, editor of the first Oxford Companion to Music (1938), wrote that ‘Its exact nature is unknown to anyone connected with this Companion.’) The Fowlers weren’t puritans, but they were men of their time, and it’s not certain what they’d have made of the new sense of cougar – now no longer their ‘large American feline quadruped’ but now also ‘an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man’.

As you can see . . . a century of fun awaits!

For the music/movie lover in your sphere of influence . . .

Driving home in the winter dark, a piece of music we had never heard before began to play. It was film music, that we could tell. It had a steampunk, mechanical, victorian, al a turk, mozart feel. 

After a few minutes, we looked at each other (and the road of course) and said, “Sherlock Holmes?” 

Sure enough, it was.

So, having never seen the blockbuster, but based only on the soundtrack we heard, we cheerfully recommend to this 2009 Hans Zimmer score as quality gift-giving this year to all your Classical Music lovers this Christmas.

And as for you Hans? Keep that voodoo that you do so well coming!

Local Lad makes good

Roland Frieshlad is a local man who recently translated the poetic German children’s tale (no pun intended) Haschenschule by Albert SixtusFritz Koch-Gotha into English.


Rabbit School is one of those books young children will love and remember well into adulthood.  It’s beautiful pictures by Koch-Gotha, and memorable rhymes by Sixtus,  now made accessible by Frieshlad:

Almost seven! Don’t delay! Each one’s backpack, dark or pale, Bounces o’er a bunny tail.

make this a sure to please Christmas present for 4 and ups.

The story is simple. It’s the first day of school for two young bunnies living in the deep in the woods. A beloved old schoolteacher teaches them everything a good rabbit should know, including how to avoid the dangerous red fox who lurks in the forest.

First published in 1924, the book’s been a classic in German ever since.  It’s still in print in fact.  Sweden, Italy, and Rome (yes, there’s a Latin version!), have all enjoyed this little book. But now for the first time, it’s available in English — thanks to one Ventura dad that loved it so much, he translated it for his son (in 1996) back when he was in kindergarden.

It’s the best kind of book, loved by generations!  Start a new tradition this Christmas, give a great old book, that’s new to Americans!

Available everywhere, it’s the product of Godine. HB $14.99  ISBN 1567923836

Published in: on November 10, 2009 at 5:28 PM  Leave a Comment  
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