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A worded world: Celebrating the Oxford English Dictionary's legacy

Thursday 01 February 2024

Imagine a world without the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It's 2024, and we're celebrating not just a book, but a cultural treasure that has shaped the way we interact with the English language.

The OED's journey began over a century ago, a monumental project that initially aimed to catalogue the English language in its entirety. It was a bold venture, not just in scope but in ambition. The first edition, an arduous work of literary art, took 70 years to complete.

The OED in the modern world

Fast forward to today, the OED is not a static relic but a living, breathing entity. It evolves, adding new words each year, reflecting the ever-changing lexicon of our times. From 'selfie' to 'post-truth,' the OED captures the zeitgeist of our society. It's fascinating to see how new words, influenced by technology, social change, and even global pandemics, find their rightful place in this venerable tome.

In an age where information is at our fingertips, the OED has transcended its physical form. It's now accessible online, a digital oracle of words. This transition to digital is not just about accessibility; it's about staying relevant in an ever-evolving digital landscape. The online platform allows for quicker updates and a more interactive experience with the English language.

The art of word selection:

The OED's process of adding new words is a blend of science and art. It's a meticulous process where lexicographers scour through vast amounts of literature and media, identifying words that have not only emerged but have stood the test of time and usage. This process shows how the OED is more than a dictionary; it's a cultural barometer, measuring the words that define generations.

The OED's latest additions are as diverse as they are intriguing, reflecting the ever-evolving tapestry of our language. Here are some highlights that resonate with our experiences, memories, and everyday lives.

Amla - The amla fruit, a staple in tropical and southern Asia, has now found its way into the OED. Known for its sour taste and numerous health benefits, amla is often a key ingredient in traditional remedies and cuisines. Its inclusion speaks to the growing global influence of diverse cultures on the English language.

Blind Stitching - The art of 'blind stitching' is a wonderful metaphor for skills that are unobtrusively effective. This sewing technique, where stitches are invisible on one side of the fabric, is reflective of the meticulous craftsmanship appreciated by many of our readers who value attention to detail in crafts and hobbies.

Chekhov’s Gun - This literary term, derived from Anton Chekhov's writing principle, resonates with anyone who appreciates storytelling. It contends that every element in a story should be necessary and irreplaceable. In today's world of information overload, the elegance of this principle feels more relevant than ever.

The future of the OED

As we look ahead, the OED's journey is far from over. Its digital transformation is just the beginning. With advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the future could see the OED becoming more interactive and predictive, perhaps even offering personalised learning experiences. The potential for the OED to adapt and grow with the times is limitless.

In Summary

In celebrating the Oxford English Dictionary's anniversary, we're commemorating a journey through the English language. The OED is a testament to the power of words to shape our world, a legacy that continues to grow and inspire. As we turn the page on another year, the OED remains our faithful guide in the ever-evolving landscape of the English language.


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