The first American dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1806 by Noah Webster. It was replaced by An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. When Webster died, George and Charles Merriam purchased the rights to publish revised editions of the dictionary – creating the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
The dictionary has been revised many times (new editions are released about every ten years). New words such as hashtag, selfie and tweep are a result of advances in technology and social networking.
Few people read the dictionary through in order to discover new words, so I subscribe to a “word a day” email. The words given are often obscure.
- antimetabole – A repetition of words or an idea in reverse order: “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.”
- zeugma – the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in “opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy”)
- synecdoche – A figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole or vice versa: “head count” to refer to the count of people or “the police” to refer to a police officer.
Who uses such words in casual conversation or even writing for that matter? Regardless of the frequency of their use, there is a word for it!
Words are not only added to the dictionary. Old words are deleted – those not in common use anymore.
- ostmark – unit of currency in the former East Germany
- hodad – word from The Beach Boys era meaning “a nonsurfer who frequents surfing beaches and pretends to be a surfer” and
- snollygoster – a shrewd, unprincipled person (often used by President Harry S. Truman).
It is interesting to observe the evolution of words used in the English language. As a Christian, I can count on one Word never changing. He is not new. He is not old. He is not obscure. He is eternal – my Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God….
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 1, 2, 14).