Magazine changes and the Oxford English Dictionary

The pen is mightier than the sword. Look at what happened to the word, “magazine”.

There was a time when it meant an arsenal, an armoury, a storehouse for arms and ammunition. Maybe that is how the cartridge-holder for rifles and machine-guns came to be called a “magazine”.

[Read more…]

The man who added “c***” and “f***” to Oxford English Dictionary

Robert Burchfield
Robert Burchfield

If nothing else, the man had balls. The man who added swear words like “c***” and “f***” to  the Oxford English Dictionary also broke another taboo. [Read more…]

Cuppa and other words first used by P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse

When you think of P.G. Wodehouse, you think of pigs, aunts, potty earls and dapper younger brothers, unflappable omniscient butlers, goofy young men and irresistible young women – and a language that’s absolutely unique, peppered with words and phrases as funny  and bizarre as the situations the characters get into. Wodehouse uses words and expressions such as “oojah-cum-spiff’, “rannygazoo”  and “twenty-minute egg”.  Colourful, outlandish, memorable.

But did you know he was the first writer known to have used  the word “cuppa” ? It’s such a common word. Yet, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the first evidence of the word comes from him.  The OED has 1,756 quotations from Wodehouse.  Here are the 22 words which, according to the OED, first appeared in the writings of Wodehouse.  Here are the words, in alphabetical order, followed by the quotations from Wodehouse. The entries are all from the OED.

  • Billiken: A small, squat, smiling figure used as a mascot.
    1914   P. G. Wodehouse Man Upstairs 257   When you send a girl three bouquets, a bracelet, and a gold Billiken with ruby eyes, you do not expect an entire absence of recognition
  • Crispish: Somewhat crisp.
    1930   P. G. Wodehouse Very Good, Jeeves vi. 142   When not pleased Aunt Dahlia, having spent most of her youth in the hunting-field, has a crispish way of expressing herself.
  •  Cuppa:  A form, freq. in modern times, of cup o’. Also used ellipt. for cup o’ tea. colloq.
    1925   P. G. Wodehouse Sam the Sudden vi. 42   Come and have a cuppa coffee. [Read more…]

Awesome and groovy

Schoolmasters as a class are extremely groovy.

You don’t say!

That’s what it says in the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which plucked that quote from an article published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1896.

Wow, “groovy” was in use that long ago?

I thought “groovy” was what baby boomers said when they meant “awesome”.  Like Simon and Garfunkel here at the end of this post, singing Feelin’ Groovy.

Well, “groovy” predates the boomers and meant something completely different earlier. [Read more…]