OED October Update.

Jonathan Dent, OED Senior Assistant Editor, provides a roundup of the new words, phrases, and compounds added to the OED this quarter:

New additions this September cover a lot of ground, stretching alphabetically from abugida (a system for organizing words or characters in the Semitic languages of Ethiopia, or a writing system used in some South or South-East Asian languages) to the slangily dismissive whatevs. This update travels back to the early Jurassic to examine dinosaurs of the genus Anchisaurus, drops in on ancient Rome for the fertility ritual Ambarvalia, and returns to the present day for a phenomenon celebrated (or at least, endlessly photographed) in the archetypal modern Western city: Manhattanhenge is an alignment of sunrise or sunset with the streets of New York, first recorded by this name in an email from the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2003. Among the earliest additions this quarter is an adverbial sense of ange (expressing a feeling of distress or anxiety) found in Old English works copied over a thousand years ago, while the most recent was first used less than seven years ago: a satoshi is the smallest monetary unit in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and is named after Satoshi Nakamoto, the—probably pseudonymous—developer(s) of Bitcoin.

The italicized words have links to their OED entries; he goes on to discuss the categories of food and drink (e.g., angels’ share, “the portion of distilled spirits […] lost to evaporation while ageing in casks”), politics and society (simples: “This modification of the interjection simple is probably unfamiliar to anyone outside the UK”), World English and regional words (sumphy, “a Scottish adjective meaning either ‘stupid’ or ‘sullen’”), and sf (“Star Wars fans eagerly awaiting the release of The Rise of Skywalker in December can pass the time by checking out the linguistic histories of lightsabre, Jedi, Padawan, and the Force”). I was particularly struck by the new entry for chess (pie), “a pie or tart filled with a mixture of eggs, butter, and sugar, to which nuts and fruit are sometimes added”:

Etymology: Origin unknown.
It has been suggested that chess is an alteration of cheese n.1 (compare cheesecake n. and cheese pie n. at cheese n.1 Compounds 2: the former at least denotes a similar dish and did not necessarily contain cheese; compare also chess cake in quot. 1860), but the form chess is not attested as a variant of cheese n.1 Another theory is that the name is an alteration of chest n.1 in chest pie, with reference to storing pies in a chest, but no evidence has been found of a form chest pie (or of pie chest). There is an anecdote in which the pie was described as ‘jes’ pie’ (just pie), which became chess pie, but there is no evidence to support this.

What a tangled recipe for such a simple word!


  1. It seems very strange to me that “abugida” has just now been added to the OED.

  2. Why? It’s not exactly a household word; after the first citation, 1961 University Coll. (Addis Ababa) Rev., it doesn’t occur again till the ’90s. I’m more surprised about arancini, attested since 1950.

  3. AJP Crown says:

    anchoïade, n.: A traditional Provençal purée made principally from anchovies, garlic, and olive oil, typically served as a dip or spread on bread.

    Sounds like Patum, typically served on hot buttered toast. There are differences (garlic), so I’ll give it a try. Why is it suddenly an English word? We don’t use dots unless we’re the New Yorker, I thought. This is a good one:

    simonize, v.1: intransitive. To practise simony; to buy or sell ecclesiastical or spiritual benefits, especially preferment or office in the church.

    They’ve already got
    polish (a motor vehicle).
    “you’ll never know how beautiful you can make your car look until you Simonize it”

    Could cause confusion.
    “You’ll never know how beautiful you can make your car look until you buy or sell ecclesiastical or spiritual benefits.”

  4. January First-of-May says:

    It seems very strange to me that “abugida” has just now been added to the OED.

    I agree, but there’s a lot of that sort of narrow jargon; as I repeatedly mentioned here a few years back, pentanummium (a 6th century Byzantine coin denomination) is not there either (or at least it wasn’t back when I still could check).

  5. Still not there, but remember that they can’t include every word that’s ever been used in English.

  6. John Cowan says:

    Peth-winds: still not there.

    Tamil, which is an abugida like almost all Indic scripts before very recent times, is also presented in such a table and learned as a syllabary, but not so the other major scripts of India.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    travels back to the early Jurassic

    The Early Jurassic, because that’s an official name ratified by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.

    (…but then, only in English. The uppercase is not used in French or Spanish or German or Russian.)

    And why is the proper name Anchisaurus in the dictionary at all? Apparently just because one source wrote it in lowercase in 2003.

  8. Eric Banks says:

    I’ve often been baffled by where the chess in chess pie (growing up in Mississippi, we always just called the delicacy ‘chess squares’) came from. Thanks for this.

  9. angels’ share

    The Devil’s Cut
    Also the Devil plays a minor role here. At the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky, USA, they claim that they can extract the liquid that is being absorbed by barrel during the maturing process. They do this, by filling the emptied barrel with water, spin it round at very high speeds and then they blend this extracted liquid with a 6-year old Bourbon.

    This product is being marketed as Jim Beam Devil’s Cut.


  10. AJP Crown says:

    The Devil’s Cut

    They use Scotting & English whisky instead of the Irish & American whiskey.

    I wish I could charge a million quid a pint for my dishwater. Still, theirs is probably a better flavour.

  11. Maker’s Mark® uses whisky, though.

  12. Here’s a “chess cake” use earlier than OED’s 1860, and not strengthening OED’s note, “U.S. regional (chiefly southern and south Midland).”
    May 31, 1856, Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph, p. 3, col. 4 [Am. Historical Newsp.]:
    “Call at 79 & 80, Front Street, If in want of Confectionary, Sweet-Meats, Cakes….&c
    …Lady Fingers, Chess Cakes, Jumbles, Kisses, Maccaronies….”

  13. La part des anges est la partie du volume d’un alcool qui s’évapore pendant son vieillissement en fût.


  14. It’s not surprising that OED2 lacked abugida, which is based on OED1 (finished 1928) + OED Supplement (Vol.1 A to D started 1952, published 1972). OED3 revised alphabetically from M in 2000 to R until 2010, when alphabetical revision was abandoned.

    Since then each quarterly batch of aditions seems to include a few groups themed by topic or root plus miscellaneous others. I’m sure they have well-thought-out guidelines for what to prioritise for each lexicographer’s area of expertise. One thing they won’t do is whip up a short placeholder entry for a missing word until they can get round to producing a full-quality entry. So it’s inevitable that there will be many gaps for years to come.

  15. I once saw a Cutty Sark box with “Scots Whiskey” on the sides and “Scots Whisky” on the ends.

  16. J.W. Brewer says:

    The relevant federal regulations giving the formal definitions of what can and can’t be labeled for U.S. sale as a particular sort of booze consistently use the “whisky” spelling. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/5.22 OTOH, some of the federal drug statutes still use the archaic spelling variant “marihuana,” so that’s not a particularly good indicator of actual U.S. usage.

  17. Here’s a “chess cake” use earlier than OED’s 1860, and not strengthening OED’s note, “U.S. regional (chiefly southern and south Midland).”

    Nice find — send it to them!

  18. AJP Crown says:

    A group called Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan says Both “j” and “h” spellings are equally accurate and acceptable, but if you are conflicted, you can always just use “cannabis.” By just use “cannabis” I know what they mean. It’s like “just say no”. Anyway according to them the H spelling is Mexican and is also used in Canada whereas the J spelling is “uniquely American.” Mexicans & Canadians: “Define ‘uniquely American,’ weed puffers.”

  19. I pronounce “Wales” and “whales” differently, and so ought to pronounce marijuana and marihuana differently. However, I use the former spelling and latter pronunciation, because the -h- spelling is dated and the /hw/ pronunciation would strike one as a precious attempt to sound hispanophone (or a racist insinuation that Latinos are drug smugglers?).

    That’s a half-joke; I have /hw/ in e.g. “San Juan” and “Huawei” and don’t worry about precious or racist.

  20. Stu Clayton says:

    Anyway according to them the H spelling is Mexican

    Not only “h”. It’s almost always mariguana in Mexican news sites I have been reading this year, for instance Diario de Juárez. I had never seen this spelling before.

    This is stranger than I thought, because an internet search just now with “méxico diario mariguana” showed Spanish-language hits most of which used the marihuana spelling. Here is one with “g” from the Mexican Forbes site: Fumar mariguana a diario aumenta riesgo de psicosis: estudio.

    The Los Angeles Public Library maintains a list of hispanophone news sites: Noticias de países hispanohablantes.

  21. John Cowan says:

    And why is the proper name Anchisaurus in the dictionary at all? Apparently just because one source wrote it in lowercase in 2003.

    Sure, what’s wrong with it? “What the devil is that?” “Oh, that? That’s the bones of an anchisaurus.” Thuryago, now there are two citations.


    Properly that ought to be [xw], and I hereby mandate every anglophone with [x] in their accent to say it that way henceforth.

  22. Not that simple. It varies between [h] and [x], or at least did when I was on Taiwan.

  23. John Cowan says:

    In Putonghua it’s officially [x].

  24. David Marjanović says:



    officially [x]

    Officially and northern; southern (in Mandarin and beyond) it’s [h]. I suspect [kxʰ] (official & northern) and [kʰ] (southern) are distributed the same way.


    [ˌhuːaˈvaɪ̯] in German media. 🙁

  25. Lars (the original one) says:

    I’m lowkey trying to learn Spanish, and my listening exercises want me to spell guau when the speaker says “Wow”. (Which they do). I have no idea why huau isn’t good enough (but uau might look too weird).

    Anyway, the Real Diccionario says marihuana, también mariguana, but I assume the latter is to be pronounced with [ɣw] and it doesn’t have dates. (The historical dictionaries are only online up to B or C, as far as I can see).

  26. Stu Clayton says:

    “Hua” versus “gua” may be a relict of battles between schools of orthography, the prize being to establish conventions that represent slightly different productions. I don’t know what sound “ɣw” is, but if it’s a raspy sound at the back, followed by a “wh”, then that’s about right.

    Consider how guapo is uttered. The initial sound is not a hard “g” as in “gooey”.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    I assume the latter is to be pronounced with [ɣw]

    Well, no: the Spanish g isn’t the fricative [ɣ], it’s the mere approximant [ɰ]. (Likewise for b and d, except there the IPA doesn’t have separate symbols for fricatives and approximants.) Combine a velar approximant with a labial approximant (u), and you get the labiovelar approximant [w].

  28. A word that was new to me this year is cajon (originally cajón), a Latin American percussion instrument – a plywood box with a sound hole on the back. The player sits on top and strikes the front and sides. It’s kind of a compact drum kit and it’s been moving from Latin music into American pop.

  29. It varies between [h] and [x]

    So does the Spanish.

  30. Although it’s sometimes said that the unvoiced stops in English are aspirated and the voiced stops aren’t, the voiced stops are actually aspirated a little bit. In a Spanish word like guapo, the g is not aspirated at all and a native English speaker has a hard time hearing it, even though the mouth is configured for a g. When they’e taught not to say “g;uapo, Americans tend to say wapo – this is a feature of the American accent in Spanish.

  31. Lars (the original one) says:

    @David, so marihuana should have a triphthong and mariguana a semivowel between i and u? A nice distinction.

    Also the theory seems to be that gua/guo do start with a stop (unaspirated, as Bloix explained) after pause and nasals, and the approximant intervocalically. Except in guau, or maybe I can’t hear it because Danish doesn’t have fully voiced stops either — but I do hear it in guapo.

  32. More on “chess cake” by George Goebel (hat tip to Joan Hall of DARE):

  33. Stu Clayton says:

    The “cheesecake/chess pie” dis/connect has an analogy in German: Käsekuchen, which is not made from cheese, but rather quark, sweet (and sour) cream, eggs and lemon juice, and can be freestanding instead of languishing in a pieshell. It contains nowhere near the revolting quantity of sugar that goes into chess pie.

  34. More on “chess cake” by George Goebel

    Thanks; here’s the etymology given there (he gives the old alternative spelling chescake):

    Varr of cheesecake; similar spp are found occasionally in English texts from the 16th century onward, but the implied pronunciation, which represents a regular shortening (as in shepherd from sheep) was probably widespread at one time. 18th-century English cheesecake recipes contain no cheese in the usual sense, and are very much like those quoted in 1 below.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    so marihuana should have a triphthong and mariguana a semivowel between i and u?

    No triphthong; there’s a syllable boundary through it. The theoretical difference is that g adds a velar articulation while h doesn’t, but that’s hard to hear, and I doubt many native speakers would articulate this difference consistently or at all.

    a regular shortening (as in shepherd from sheep)

    Oh yeah, that’s also more or less why one of the two words spelled wind has a short vowel – it was extracted from windy, windmill and other words where the -nd wasn’t word-final, and then it replaced the regular form.

  36. PlasticPaddy says:

    From Wiktionary:

    from Proto-Germanic *wandijaną (“to turn”), causative of Proto-Germanic *windaną (“to wind”)
    from Proto-Germanic *windaną.

    Since English wind like German winden has the causative sense, the Wiktionary derivation ignores semantics (because the sound change would be irregular if wind were to be derived from *wandijana?). These verbs seem to have got tangled😊 in both German where you have both verwandt and verwendet and English where wend disappeared except as a past of go, but a person can wind up somewhere.

  37. Stu Clayton says:

    in both German where you have both verwandt and verwendet

    Do you mean gewunden (wound around, twisted, meandering), the participle of winden ? Verwandt is “related by blood or marriage”, verwendet is “used (for some purpose)”. All from winden/wenden sez DWDS.

    It also says wenden is (historically) the causative form, as does your Wiktionary quote. That is not the case today, as you indeed wrote: “Since English wind like German winden has the causative sense…”

    I find all this explanation rather confusing. When one just uses the words as the Good Lord intended, there is no problem.

    It’s obvious that this is an ingroup/outgroup thing. Practice gets you in, or it doesn’t. Reams of analysis is no remedy.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    verwendet is “used (for some purpose)”

    Yes, but lots of people – in Germany – use verwandt for this sense, too.

    …which brings us to the joys of Rückumlaut (check especially endnote 2).

  39. David Marjanović says:

    It varies between [h] and [x]

    Also [χ]. In Chinese [χ] might be somewhere in the middle geographically; in Spanish, however, it’s in Spain.

  40. Kate Bunting says:

    I wonder why ‘Ambarvalia’ has suddenly appeared in the OED? I only know the word from a poem I remember reading when I had a Rupert Brooke craze some 45 years ago (he had apparently supposed it to be a festival of the dead rather than a fertility ritual). https://www.bartleby.com/232/214.html

  41. He rhymes it with “star”!

    I wonder why ‘Ambarvalia’ has suddenly appeared in the OED?

    Maybe it had something to do with the most recent citation:

    2018 N. J. Ristuccia Christianization & Commonw. in Early Medieval Europe ii. 95 Many well-educated people throughout the last twelve hundred years have believed that Rogationtide was the Ambarvalia Christianized.

    (The previous one is from 1903, so it may not have been noticed for quite a while.)

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