Word Traveling with the OED
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