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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Word of the Week (end)

I’m a writer, so words are important to me. It’s not unusual to see me staring off into space when I’m writing -- often searching for just the right word to express whatever I’m trying to say.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Oxford English Dictionary, that most definitive resource on the English language.

It was first published in sections called “fascicles” beginning in 1884. Here's a picture of James A. H. Murray, an early editor of the OED, in his "scriptorium" around 1880.

The “complete” OED was launched in 1928 after 70 years of research and compilation. The 1928 edition contained 415,000 words.

Today the number of volumes has doubled, and the 20 volumes weigh 137 pounds!

In honor of this seminal event, I thought it would be fun to feature a word a week here (or, OK, every other week, or once a month, or whenever the whim hits). This week’s word is (ta daaahh)....
According to the World of Words section at AskOxford.com, linguistic mythology traces the origins of ‘posh’ to the seafaring acronym Port Out, Starboard Home. These indicated the best cabins (shade side) on the trip between Britain and India—port side for the outward trip, starboard for the trip back. But no documentation using the initials P.O.S.H. has ever been found, so the dictionary suggests a more likely origin: nineteenth- century slang for a “dandy” which in turn derived from thieves’ slang for money.
“That posh got ‘imself a lot of posh," says Posh Spice.
So...how about you? Got a word you'd like to talk about?

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Blogger Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

I think what Posh ment to say was a load of "dosh".

I love British colloquialisms.

My Favorite Source for UK slang other than BBCAmerica

October 16, 2008 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

Wow, MN, what a cool source. Gonna have to put that in my faves.

And, isn't it interesting that "dosh" and "posh" sound so similar? Wonder what the OED has to say about that!...

October 16, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger lucy said...

this is a question that plagues me nights when i can't sleep. i once came up with my favorite word, so that, you know, when i was on actor's studio i wouldn't seem stupid. but then i quickly forgot it.

my favorite online source for etymology is aptly called:


they said the same thing as oed said but added this tidbit about the thieves slang for money: "originally "coin of small value, halfpenny," possibly from Romany posh "half.""

October 16, 2008 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

well, shiver me timbers, isn't etymology a blast? Thanks for adding that nifty piece of 411, Lucy. And the fact that "posh" hails from a romany word makes it even more exotic. I'll rely on you to check out all the OED definintions...

October 16, 2008 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger TallDarkandHandsome said...

My favorite word for the week and the weekend would have to be BEER. No dictionary required. I might have said potato chips but quickly recognized I'd be over my limit

October 16, 2008 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

TDH, I think your favorite words could also be the answer to a lot of questions: "what's your favorite comfort food" or "what's your favorite pasttime." Handy, that.

October 17, 2008 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger Cassondra said...

Well, Annie, Posh T Bandita (of the Bandita lair, also known by the common folk who are NOT writers as Caren Crane) will LOVE having a blog related to her nickname. She's Posh T Bandita after Posh Spice, partially, and the rest of the evolution of the nickname is top secret. No secret though, about why she chose to be Posh--it's all about her personality and the love of the "posh."

I think it's interesting where words and phrases started, and also interesting how they evolve.

We recently had a funny discussion over in the lair about regionalisms and the way words are used and warped from one part of the country to the next--and that's just in the USA! If you take it to its origins in other countries, or its meanings around the world it just gets nuts.

Auntie Cindy--Loucinda McGary was speaking of a Chester Drawers--a phrase she knew from her upbringing in Oklahoma--and I said "I KNOW HIM! His sister, Chesta Drawers, lived at my grandmother's house in Southern Kentucky!" Of course, we were speaking of a Chest Of Drawers--a piece of furniture, and the origins are obvious, if entertaining. But I love how the local dialects slur and change words.

Words like "posh" are so interesting in particular because it's so hard to figure out WHERE they came from. I happened to like the Port-Starbord explanation. I can just see it being jotted down on the ship's log for the wealthy traveler--same way you get a First Class ticket on an airplane.

So Annie, what made you choose the word "posh" for this blog?

October 17, 2008 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

You'll have to pass the word onto Posh T for me, Cassondra. I'd love to get her take on the etymology of her nickname. Funny thing, my next blog is going to be on nicknames!

As to why I chose "posh"? I was rooting around for a word with an interesting explanation and found this one. I love the nautical derivation even if it isn't true. I've got a couple of other good ones up my sleeve for next week, or whenever I get around to it.

As for regionalisms, we have the argument here about the verb you use to switch off a light. Do you "turn it off" or "close" it? I say "close" but I've been laughed at in my own home for it...

October 17, 2008 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

I'd love to get her take on the etymology of her nickname.

Our own Posh (aka Caren) has a fabulous sense of style and is generous beyond belief. Why, she'd give you the very(Chico's Celtic design, please, please, please let me borrow it) jacket off her back....


Reporting from the Lair, Joanie T.

October 17, 2008 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Annie, I love etymology discussions! What fun. I have a shorter OED that my parents gave me for a 21st present - isn't that cool? I absolutely adore it. Nearly died of frustration when I worked as a subeditor at a place that used a different much inferior dictionary. Actually does anybody apart from Queenslanders call a dressing table a duchess? I've always wondered where that came from.

October 17, 2008 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

glad to hear "posh t" is generous. That jacket sounds divine, joanie.

October 19, 2008 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

Glad to hear there's a fellow entymologist among us, Anna! I'll have to do a little research on the "duchess" and see if I can find out anything about that. Never heard that regionalism before. Intersting. And I must say I'm a bit jealous of your OED.

October 19, 2008 at 9:49 PM  

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