Saturday, March 15, 2008

Language changes at the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary is a great book and its regular revisions have provided fascinating snapshots of how language has changed over the last few generations. But now, according to John Simpson at the OED, the ways in which they publish their revisions are being changed to pay particular attention to "important English words whose meanings or application have developed most over the past century".

Which means that in the latest set of revisions we get heaven and hell, computer, gay and that old favourite, f**k. The revisions include some interesting points about the words' etymologies (their origins and development over time) and give us a sense of how language changes to reflect a changing world.

The link to this update came from the excellent World Wide Words website, which itself has a very good piece on the origins of the verb to denigrate - literally to blacken - which has come in for some stick recently over its perceived racist connotations. Check here to find out more.

And this has also been covered here in The Guardian 24th March 2008.

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA1 - Language & Representation

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