Word Traveling with the OED

Takoma Park Library

Word Traveling with the OED

DC Public Library digital resources

Oxford English Dictionary database
The Oxford English Dictionary, available to you online with your DC Public Library card, is much more than a dictionary. Taking a brief tour will convince you that its claim to be “the definitive record of the English Language” is well-founded.

But what do they mean by ‘definitive record’?  Let us take an example: shirt (n.).

According to the OED, shirt has been in use since before the year 1200. They list examples throughout the years -- Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale (1386):  “Where been thanne the gaye Robes and the smale shetes and the softe shertes?” and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1604): “Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,..he comes before me.”

Here are a couple of the interesting milestones in between -- The Chronicles of England (1520):
“Hercules..was betrayed by a sherte that Deyanira his wyfe sent hym empoysoned.”

And this one from A.K. McClure’s 3,000 Miles through the Rocky Mts. (1854):
“In order to attend the Governor's reception I borrowed a boiled shirt.”

So take a word journey down through the ages with the OED, available in the Encyclopedias and General Reference Online Research section of our database holdings.

Image credit: "DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009" from Michael Mandiberg's photostream.  Available form https://www.flickr.com.  Accessed 09/23/14. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode