Last week we learned that the OED is a favorite resource of Helmke Librarian Ann Marshall. Here’s a little more about this fascinating resource!
Why use a dictionary when you can just ask Google, Siri, or Alexa to define something for you? Dictionaries can codify current language use or bring fun and enlightenment to current events (see Merriam-Webster’s Twitter feed). The Oxford English Dictionary – the OED – goes even farther. Here are some reasons to check it out:
The OED includes definitions, etymology, and frequency statistics for each word, so you can trace the word’s use over time and geography.
For every definition, the OED includes excerpts from historical texts that used the word in question. This shows you the earliest known use of each word. The Professor and the Madman : a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary recounts the amazing story of how the first edition was developed in the 1800s. (It was done by hand, via snail mail, and involved some colorful characters!)
3. Not only can you trace the history of a word over time, but the online OED includes interactive tools so you can create timelines, charts, and link to other words with similar meaning, etymology, or geographical use. Analyzing word usage over time is a newer way of analyzing historical texts, and it was one of the first types of analysis in the new research field called “digital humanities.”
Check out the Oxford English Dictonary at Helmke Library or online with your IPFW credentials!