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Is That A Fact?

"Dorky" made its first recorded English appearance in 1983.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, collegiate dictionaries began printing dates for the first recorded use of English words.  The problem is, they don't always agree with each other or with the Oxford English Dictionary.

Take "dorky" for example.  The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary shows a first recorded use in 1983.  The Random House Webster's College Dictionary shows 1965-70.  Which is right?  I can't say.  However, I can point you to an article that explains how dictionary makers go about answering such questions.  It is titled Nachos, anyone?, and appeared in the July 1999 OED Newsletter.  In it, an OED researcher recounts her successful effort to antedate "nachos" after her superiors found that Merriam-Webster had published a date several years earlier than what their records showed.

For more ideas on how to use words in warm-ups, look at Words in the Spotlight.  The section Is That A Word? explores ideas related to what you see here.

If you're interested, here are a few more discrepancies I've found.

 

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth edition

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition

boonies

1965-70

1956

N/A

crackup

1850-55

1829 and 1926

1926

dud

1895-1900

1567 and 1903

1897

gimme

1880-85

1982

1883

humdinger

1885-90

1904

1905

infotainment

1985-90

1982

N/A

snowboard

1985-90

1981

N/A

spreadsheet

1960-65

1982

1982

ultralight

1970-75

1980

1974

 


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original web posting: Wednesday, March 15, 2000
last modified: Monday, March 29, 2004