Words are my thing. My first degree is in languages (French and Russian) and I enjoy writing. So my book of the week choice is the Oxford English Dictionary Online. This is a record of all the known words in the English language. If you want to know what a word means, and what its history is, this is the book for you.
Key the word ‘blog’ into the search field, for example, and you learn that it’s short for ‘weblog’ and the first known (by the OED Elves) use of the word was back in 1999. Yes, blogs have been around that long.
The word ‘Essay’, by contrast has many meanings including the part of a deer in which trial was made of the ‘grease’ – which was clearly crucial terminology if you were deer-hunting back in 1611. But in the academic writing sense, the word ‘essay’ has been around in English since Francis Bacon published his ‘Essays’ in 1597.
On the OED home page you also get the Word of the Day, which on the day I wrote this was Proairesis – “the power to choose or make a decision”. Crisps or nuts with your drink? You’re having a moment of proairesis… Increase your vocabulary effortlessly by signing up to get the OED Word of the Day by email.
Use the OED to check on recently published words and phrases, like ‘day gang’, ‘factorage’ or ‘groupism’. In December 2014, the dictionary added ‘G’day’, ‘BYOD’ and ‘un-PC’ to its pages.
The OED Elves find time to write about words and the use of words. Currently there’s an Essay (1597) on Words that define the First World War. Read about ‘Black Hand’, ‘Mills Bomb’, and ‘Lost Generation’ – this is history revealed through the language of its time.
If you speak English, you need the OED online. But don’t take my ‘word’ (speech, utterance, verbal expression, comes from the Old English sometime before 1200) for it – try the Oxford English Dictionary online for yourself.