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Be a part of philological history


Work on the Oxford English Dictionary was begun in 1857, when members of the Philological Society of London became sufficiently annoyed with all the existing dictionaries. The aim was to cram in 1,300 years worth of every single goddamned word in the English language they could get their hands on, including earliest usage and quotations. Nothing much came of it for the next thirty years.

Eventually, the great work was accomplished through the use of volunteer readers. Hundreds and hundreds of them, who mailed in words and quotations on little bits of paper called quotation slips. These were mashed into chunks of dictionary called fascicles and published one by one. The 125th and final fascicle was published in 1928.

One of the most prolific contributors was Dr. W.C. Minor, who provided thousands of entries. The editors later discovered he was an inmate at my next home, the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. He was an American Civil War vet who went mad and shot some poor bastard more or less at random on the streets of London. Lexicographer by day, crunchy nutball after dark. Simon Winchester wrote a very interesting book about it a few years ago. Well, I thought it was interesting.

The current edition of the OED is 20 volumes and over 300,000 words (also available online and by CD). The Oxford University Press has never made a net profit on sales of the dictionary.

It seems likely Woody’s World of Penis Euphemisms has never made a profit, either, but Woody’s goal is somewhat more modest: to collect every single word for penis, like, ever. He’s asking for submissions. Can you help?

No, I didn’t find this when I was slapping together the coon bone post. It’s exactly what I was looking for, but I never found it. Somebody hit this blog on a Google search of “weasel penis” — so, naturally, I ran the same search to see how I ranked. Fourth. This guy was fifth.

Urban dictionary was first. Hmph. And they can bite me.

August 7, 2007 — 5:51 pm
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