An Even More Expensive OED!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Amazon having a good price on the Oxford English Dictionary–the world’s largest (and I think safe to say best) dictionary.
Well, today I was checking around and found they have a special Blue Leather edition. And at $6,295.00 it makes the regular edition at $877.10 seem cheap!

Wow. I imagine there are word lovers out there willing to buy a special edition for over $6k, but would they ever dare open it?!

My cunning plan is, once we buy a new house (latest estimate puts that at 10 years down the road) and I actually have shelfspace, I will buy a set.

Of course that will be the $800 version.

The Oxford English Dictionary on Sale

I got an advertisement from Oxford University Press with a special sale on the OED.  The Oxford English Dictionary is, well, the mother-of-all-dictionaries. is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the dictionary’s completion. It was started in 1857 and the original 10 volumes was completed in 1928.  It has since grown to 20 volumes and is widely considered the most authoritative voice on word definitions and etymology.

Well, the advert had it on sale for $895 and the first 100 people to respond would get a 6-month subscription to the OED online.

This was a good deal, I thought, until I saw on Amazon it was even cheaper. I don’t think you get the 6 month subscription, but, hey, you have the books! The Oxford English Dictionary (20 Volume Set)

There is also a CD version, but some of the reviews I’ve read aren’t too favorable.

It would be nice to have it as a stand alone electronic dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary of English (also excellent, but a different beast in itself), is installed in the Casio XD-GP9700 and a few other models, but so far no one that I know of has the OED. One day there will be a perfect electronic dictionary.

A New Fun Word Book

Buckley: The Right Word ImageYesterday, I got in a new book on William F. Buckley Jr.’s use of the English language: Buckley: The Right Word. Compiled by the editor of many of Buckley’s books Samuel S. Vaughan, it examines letters, articles and passages from his books strictly from a linguistic point of view. His use of unusual (but lapidary*) words is legendary. I read, erm, studied the first three chapters last night and I can’t wait to continue.

This is very similar to William Safire’s books compiling the best of his long running On Language column with the New York Times. Safire’s books are always great.

BTW Two of Safire’s out of print books are available at Amazon for .01 (plus shipping of course):

William Safire on Language
Take My Word for it

Wait a second. William and William? Could this be a mere coincidence? Perhaps I should have named Makoto ‘William’.

Let’s see…

William Shakespeare. Most definitely. How could anyone accommodate before Shakespeare coined ‘Accommodation‘? There would be no ‘foregone conclusion‘ had he not said it first. And of course, I would never be able to reply to my wife’s concerns with “There’s a method to my madness.” has a neat article listing some words believed to have begun with the Bard. In it, they write, “He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.

Bill (William) Clinton was pretty good with language. After all he showed incredible linguistic prowess questioning the definition of the copula.

William Shatner? I’m not sure. ‘Enterprise’ is a kind of big word, but I guess it isn’t too uncommon.

In short, there does seem to be some benefit in naming your son ‘William.’ I wouldn’t recommend it for your daughter, though.

* lapidary adj (of language) elegant and concise, and therefore suitable for engraving on stone

Chaucer is Easy and He has a Blog

Over at’s forums, Tony let’s us know the Middle English writer Chaucer is easy. (scroll down a few posts)

I gave him a chance to retract that statement – I mean people think reading Shakespeare or the 19th century revision of the King James Version of the bible is difficult – but he repeated and said, “Ever seen “Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog” ?”

‘Tis a world where Chaucer still speaketh in 14th century Middle English but writes about modern activities. For example what we now know as an Xbox 360 is a “Exboxe CCCLX” in Chaucer’s blog.

His, Her, His or Her, Their or Its

His or Her?

Yumi bought a book by Supernanny Jo Frost called Supernanny by Jo Frost. Thumbing through it reminded me of a discussion in an English class I had at the university. The topic was about what gender should be used for the third-person singular pronoun when the gender of the people involved is unknown or mixed.

What should we use for the following sentence?

A) Everyone had his grammar book.
B) Everyone had her grammar book.
C) Everyone had his or her grammar book.
D) Everyone had their grammar book.

‘Everyone’ is a singular indefinite pronoun (for a list of singular and plural indefinite pronouns see the bottom of this Wikipedia page). This means A and B and C are alright but D is a grammatical no-no.

A is sexist.
B is reverse discrimination.
C is downright silly.
and D is ungrammatical.

I just go with the traditional A. It has worked for a thousand years and I am not aware of a single case where using ‘his’ caused any physical harm to a ‘her.’

To further validate this usage, I have yet to receive a single death threat from a feminist grammarian.

But just to help you make an informed decision on this most important topic, This site is pretty good. The writer (he or she?!) states ‘his’ should be used. However for the gender conscience, the writer (he or she?!) recommends one of two options:

1. Use the phrase his or her. It is a little awkward, but OK.

Correct: Is everyone happy with his or her gift?

2. Rewrite the sentence using a plural pronoun or antecedent. Plural personal pronouns in English no longer distinguish between masculine and feminine.

Correct: Are all the people happy with their gifts?

Wikipedia has this to say about the tendency to throw traditional grammar to the wind so as to not offend:

At present, singular indefinite pronouns cause one of the most consistent deviations from Standard Academic English. Writers from all backgrounds, will tend to use plural pronouns to try to refer to those singular antecedents like “someone,” “somebody,” “no one,” “everyone,” “anyone,” “nobody,” “anybody,” and “everybody.” For instance, while the sentence: “Everybody had their matching towels,” may sound better than: “Everybody had his or her matching towel,” the second sentence is considered Standard Academic English because of the singular nature of “Everybody.” More and more, a dual singular-plural function for these pronouns is becoming second-nature in spoken English.

I’m starting to think we should just use ‘its’ and offend everyone equally!

Back to Supernanny. I’ve only read a little bit, but it looks like she has a sneaky but brilliant solution to this problem of problems. She simply alternates between ‘his’ in one paragraph and ‘her’ in another.

For example:

“After a child has taken his first step, things will have started to get even more interesting. He will have been launched like a NASA probe into a whole new stage of mobility.”

The very next paragraph has this:

“From now until around three years old, your child is officially a ‘toddler.’ She’s no longer a baby, but she doesn’t have anything like the skills, physical, mental or social, that she’ll have by her first day at school.”

I could go on with many more examples, but I don’t want to spoil the plot for you.

If you have a second, please post a comment letting me know what you do. His, her, his or her, their? Let the reader take up its keyboard and comment! (no offense intended)

Log on to www….

We’ve been slammed for the past few days. I blinked and here we are already halfway through this week.

Log on to www….

I heard this on the radio the other day and it got me thinking. Do we really log on to websites? In the olden days with dialup BBSes, you would “log on” to someone’s computer. Logging on meant dialing in, giving a username and password and then being granted access to the BBS.

Log on or Log in (either work) both imply being granted authenticated access to a computer system. Could practically anonymous web browsing count as logging on?

It doesn’t matter of course; the meaning was clear. However this week being nearly shot without a single post here made me think out loud – or as it were out typed.

Read all about logging in and on at Wikipedia’s page.

Having, Eating and Caring Less

Just a few common sayings that are oddly wrong – if you think about it.

Oddly Wrong: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Correct: You can’t eat your cake and have it too.

Many people say “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” but why not? I mean, you CAN have your cake and THEN eat it – if you do it in that order.

The intended meaning is, “You can’t eat your cake AND (then still) have it too.”

Oddly Wrong: I could care less.
Correct: I couldn’t care less.

Many people say “I could care less.”, but this has the opposite of the desired meaning. Essentially this means there is at least one thing you could care less about. It could possibly mean there are multitude of things you dislike more than what is being discussed:

“I could care less about chocolate, because I love it!”

Double negatives also annoy me to no end. But come to think of it, maybe, “You can’t have no cake and eat it too” makes perfect sense…

Well, if you couldn’t care less about how people use the language or eat their cake, how about this? Until a few minutes ago, I didn’t think my copy of Dreamweaver was that old; It seems like yesterday I bought it brand spanking new. It is Dreamweaver MX 2004 (before Adobe).

The built in spell checker had no entry for ‘spam’, ‘spammer’, ‘spammers’, ‘rss’, ‘wiki’ or ‘podcasts’. Now, I understand about podcasts and wiki, but spam? I remember hitting the delete in my Outlook Express way back in the last millennia (1990s).

Maybe it is time for an upgrade.