Monday, July 06, 2015

Dictionaries fo' shizzle!

Do you love words? I just returned from the annual conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco and as you might imagine, the place was teaming with word lovers!

While I was away, Katy Lines, our Library Services Manager, was working away in our archives and found a treasure which she posted on her Facebook page. It is Noah Webster's 1848 printing of An American Dictionary of the English Language given to Alexander Campbell in 1848 by publishers G&C Merriam (Merriam-Webster.) Anyone who knows about his series of debates will not be surprised at his having owned a hefty dictionary.

Of course, I didn't see any dictionaries like this one among the 6,813 vendors in the exhibit hall of the ALA annual conference last week. Most dictionaries are online - and in many cases all you have to do is type a word into your browser and Google will supply the definition without referencing a dictionary at all.

Top result when entering the word "dictionary" in my browser (7/6/2015)
It is a small wonder that there are any printed dictionaries of any type still around. Nevertheless, The Oxford English Dictionary has gotten some press recently as they announced new words added in 2015--including some for which I never thought I would need the correct spelling:
fo' shizzle for (or fo') shizzle for sure; definitely: gonna be a great game fo' shizzle!(1)
The OED originated from a group of scholars who were dissatisfied with the limitations of dictionaries in publication in the mid-nineteenth century and began an "'Unregistered Words Committee' to search for words that were unlisted or poorly-defined in current dictionaries."(2) That desire for an exhaustive dictionary eventually developed into a 20 volume set (2nd ed., 1989). As its mission of exhaustive inclusion continues, it is speculated that the third edition will only be published in digital format.

The Darling library subscribes to the Oxford Reference Online Premium Collection which contains over 220 Oxford reference titles including the Oxford Companions and Dictionaries, as well as many more reference works. (An active HIU email address is required to use this electronic resource.) Sadly, there is nowhere for a personal inscription, but researchers may create a personal account for creating annotations and saving search histories from one session to another. And, of course, the convenience of discovering information from within multiple reference works with one search is obvious.


Bustillos, M. (July 2, 2015) "Letter of Recommendation: The Oxford English Dictionary" The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

Steinmetz, K. (June 24, 2015) "Oxford Dictionary Adds ‘Fo’ Shizzle,’ ‘Masshole’ and ‘Hot Mess’"  Time Magazine. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

(1) Stevenson, A. (2010). shizzle. In Oxford Dictionary of English (3rd ed.), Oxford Reference Online (n.d.) Retrieved July 6, 2015, from

(2) Oxford English Dictionary. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

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