May 25, 2006

As geek as it gets

One of my job tasks lately has involved going down word lists and seeing which words are in this or that dictionary. And one of the dictionaries I needed to check (Webster's New World College Dictionary) was a ridiculously old edition -- like, 1979 or something. It was the second edition, and the latest edition is the fourth. I went through the old version anyway, because I'm like that, and I marked the words I expected to find in a newer printing. In most cases, I was correct; CHAD, GRAN, LITE, MISO, MUNI, NANA, NITE, NORI, ORCA, SECS, and SPAM had all made it in, but two words still hadn't made the cut: CHAI and DEKE (to fake someone out, in hockey). Merriam-Webster, the New Oxford American Dictionary, and Encarta all have DEKE; M-W doesn't have CHAI either, though. Is there a higher barrier to entry for food words or something? M-W, New World, and Encarta still don't have ROTINI. (NOAD does, though -- rock on, Erin.)

I just don't get this. Aren't CHAI and ROTINI much more in the language than all those frickin' Scottish dialect words like AIRT, DIRL, GIRN, and whatnot? Can't we just assume that any book that includes poetry by Robert Burns will include a glossary, and stop cluttering up my dictionaries with silly Scottish words?

Posted by Francis at 03:37 PM

The barrier to entry for food words might indeed be higher, simply because there are so damn many of them, all sort of equal (re: rotini: which of the other hundred or so pasta names do or don't make the cut?).

That said, chai should be in there.

Posted by: Rick at May 25, 2006 06:07 PM

Aw, man. If ROTINI is finally in one general dictionary, what now becomes the most common English word to be in no known dictionary?

Posted by: Trip at May 25, 2006 07:05 PM

Online M-W Collegiate (subcription) does have chai, though it still lacks rotini.

Posted by: Tablesaw at May 26, 2006 01:30 AM

If they let in rotini, they have to let in fusilli. And he's a crazy bastard.

Posted by: a at May 26, 2006 04:07 AM

Oh, come on. Who hasn't used "cwm" to get themselves out of a no vowel situation in Scrabble? The electronnic hand-held version throws this at me all the time.

Posted by: bad dad at May 26, 2006 10:26 AM

The sad thing is, "fusilli" has already worked its way in. And yet there's rotini, languishing on the doorstep.

Posted by: Lance at May 26, 2006 12:25 PM

Does the dictionary include radiatori? That there's good eatin'.

Posted by: RichM at May 26, 2006 06:21 PM

For those interested in etymology and how words find their way into dictionaries as well as reviews of dictionaries there is much myrth and usefull information to be derived from Michael Quinion's delightfull site World Wide Words

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