[ Photo credit: A 1970 printing of the 1933 corrected reissue. Credit Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times. Prop stylist: Emily Mullin.]
recent feature in the Sunday New York Times Magazine is called "Letters of Recommendation." In the July 5 issue appears Maria Bustillo's contribution, a love-letter to the great 20-volume 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which--after her husband bought it from a friend--became her favorite possession, "and by a wide margin, handily beating out all books, paintings and drawings, souvenirs, jewels — shoes, even. To own these books is to dwell alongside your own personal Eighth Wonder of the World, something to wander and delight in as you please." She mentions Samuel Johnson's contribution to lexicography (we are pleased to note she does not call Johnson's the first English dictionary), and Richard Chenevix Trench, who "persuaded the Philological Society to crowdsource the compilation of what eventually became the Oxford English Dictionary — less a book than a ceaseless endeavor that continues to this day."
While Bustillo praises the endeavor that fuels the online OED, she expresses some reservations: Reading on-screen tempts us to see things only through the pinhole of our immediate curiosity. I don’t mean to sentimentalize the Reading of Books, but as a practical matter, when you hold a book in your hands, it is very different from what happens when you are typing something onto a glassy, featureless screen. Online, your experience is personalized, but it is also atomized, flattened and miniaturized, robbed of its landscape. Physical books require you to literally hold some of the context of what you are reading, and that is a crucial dimension of understanding."
Thoughtful and brief, this column is well worth reading. Pick up a copy of the magazine to hold in your hands, or read the column online here.
The Times also mentions that the OED added the following words in March of this year:
- ear opening, n.
- eat tag, n.
- ear-grass, n.
- ear-opening, adj.
- ear-piercing, b.
- ear-popping, n. and adj.
- ear-tag, v.
- ear-tickler, n.
- ear-to-ear, adj. and adv.
- earwigger, n.
- earwigging, n.
- earworm, n.
[The initial letter for this post comes from John Withals, A Short Dictionarie for Yonge Beginners (1556).]