Back at the start of the year, the OED temporarily allowed free access to the site (see here); now they’re doing it again in conjunction with a follow-up to the TV series Balderdash and Piffle. Look ’em up while they’re there! (Thanks for the tip, Pat.)


  1. frecklefaerie says

    Thanks, languagehat! I sense a direct correlation between an increase in my etymological knowledge and a decrease in my productivity this week.

  2. Jose Luis says

    I would like to know if my mother’s family name TEROL is a jewish surname. I think Teruel was the name of the some Jewish people living in Aragon ( Spain) and when the had to move to Valencia they must change their surname by the valencian surname Terol. Teruel=Terol.
    Can anyone to hel me about it?
    Thanks grom Barcelona.
    Jose Luis Loopez Terol

  3. Paul Clapham says

    Thanks for the news. I had been meaning to make a trip downtown to look at the public library’s copy. I wanted to know whether certain little brown South American birds should be called “cachalote” or “cacholote”. (OED didn’t have either version.) And I wanted to know whether a certain type of Spanish brushland should be called “mattoral” or “matorral”. (OED didn’t have either version.) (But the latter looks right to me because it matches “chaparral”.)
    Oh well. Saved me a trip downtown anyway. When the Real Academia Española server comes back up I will see what it has to say about those words in Spanish.

  4. If you’re a member of a participating UK public library you can get access to the online OED with just the number on your library card (from anywhere, not just a library computer). Essex and Cambridge at least do this. So if you’re a UK resident it’s worth digging through your local library’s website…

  5. Paul: For what it’s worth, my Spanish dictionaries say cachalote is ‘sperm whale’ and don’t have cacholote at all. The brushland is indeed matorral.

  6. The Russian word for “sperm whale” also happens to be kashalot. This insistence on the second “a” is interesting, since the Portugese original probably derives from “cachola” (head).

  7. Thanks, Hat! By the end of the week I will have traversed the entries for ‘you’, ‘are’, ‘fired’, and ‘buster’.

  8. How odd: I assumed the OED was free, and have been using it to look things up when is no help. Until, just the other day, OED was suddenly subscription only! The really sad part is that now I can’t remember the word I wanted to look up.

  9. Janet Egan says

    Checklist of South American birds at lists the common name of Pseudoseisura lophotes as Brown Cachalote and Pseudoseisura cristata as Caatinga Cacholote. Given that Pseudoseisura cristata is a Brazilian endemic maybe the second spelling is Portuguese and the other one Spanish. Can’t find my South American field guide … I think I left it in Chile sometime ago… I think it was a Collins guide though.
    Cachalot is definitely sperm whale … “Macrocephalous of the long words” or Moby Dick.

  10. Paul Clapham says

    Mention of “free OED” reminded me that when I go to our public library’s website (not anywhere near England) there is an “Electronic Resources” link. Turns out that one of those resources is… you guessed it, the OED. Just put in my library card number and there it is.
    I don’t know how much of my cachalote/cacholote research anybody here really wants to know about. The majority of names for Pseudoseisura on the Internet are “cacholote”, but these (and “cachalote” likewise) are almost all copied from a very small number of sources. My impression from a tiny survey of scientific papers is that older papers use “cachalote” and newer papers use “cacholote”, but that’s just an impression.
    The Portuguese angle doesn’t seem to help because the Brazilians call the bird something completely different. My Collins field guide to the birds of southern SA did survive our trips to Chile and it claims that the Spanish name for the birds (in Argentina) is “cacholote”.
    However I have a copy of Sibley and Monroe’s 1993 World Checklist of Birds in which they use “cachalote” in the index and “cacholote” in the main part of the book. My hypothesis is that this lapsus was the reason the spelling changed in English. But maybe not.

  11. Andrew Dunbar says

    I think it’s over again already )-:

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