NATIONAL DICTIONARY DAY.

Actually, the Day itself was the 16th, but I’ve just found out about it, and an excellent perk—free access to Oxford Language Dictionaries Online—is available through this weekend (15-21 October 2007). So if you want to rummage around in the lexicons of French, German, Italian, and Spanish, now’s your opportunity.
And while I was at OUPblog, I found Ben Zimmer’s post Are We Giving Free Rei(g)n to New Spellings?, in which he explains why and how dictionaries add “incorrect” spellings like “vocal chords” and “free reign.” It may surprise you (if you are, like me, American) to learn that “the vocal chords variant has long been accepted in the United Kingdom (along with other anatomical uses like spinal chord)” and that the chords spelling is actually attested two years earlier than the “correct” one. As Ben says, “One generation’s ‘common error’ … can be the next generation’s accepted variant, and this is where we rely on the Oxford English Corpus to give us a snapshot of how usage is shifting.” It’s a good read. Oh, and he has a post on Dictionary Day too, with lots of historical tidbits.

Comments

  1. So if you want to rummage around in the lexicons of French, German, Italian, and Spanish, now’s your opportunity.
    I was rummaging in the first today and gave free rain to my emotions on discovering, via pluvier, that English “plover” is related to “pluvial”. I would have guessed it was OE. Rummaging around in Spanish turns up a lot of interesting liquid swaps and shifts: miraculum > milagro; Algeria > Argelia; crocodilus > cocodrilo; etc.

  2. komfo,amonan says:

    On plover: I was once told by someone erudite (& who is a commenter here, natch) that all OE words in p- are of non-Germanic origin (borrowings from Latin, Greek, &c.). A quick look at a ModE-OE dictionary indicates that ModE words in p- that come through OE come from those foreign OE words in p-. All just to say that OE is not a good guess for ModE words in p-. The point seems worth making, even though I’ve made it badly.
    periculum > peligro; parabola > palabra

  3. David Marjanović says:

    For, presumably, some reason, the “rain” connection is also there in German, though transparent: Regenpfeifer “rain whistler”. Is that yet another calque…?

  4. Thanks komfo — v. interesting about p-. It’s Grimm up north! Looking thru the Ps, I spotted that English plum is from prunus and that even something from Germanic like plow is borrowed from “N. Italic”.
    For, presumably, some reason, the “rain” connection is also there in German, though transparent: Regenpfeifer “rain whistler”. Is that yet another calque…?
    Might be, or a common tradition. From a quick look at Wikipedia, Danish has strandpipare, which I presume means “beach-piper”.

  5. Actually “strandpipare” is Swedish. The Danish name for the the genus is ‘hjejler’ after the golden plover, ‘hjejle’.
    The ringed plover is ‘större strandpipare’ in Swedish, but ‘stor præstekrave’ (large priest’s collar) in Danish. In that context it might be important to know that the word ‘præstekrave’ (priest’s collar) is a very specific garment used in the Church of Denmark. It’s also called ‘pipekrave’ (piped collar / ruff) – the more general accessory worn by the upper class around the time of the Danish Reformation.

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