How to make a word geek happy

grammar-OEDI have now in my possession the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, on CD-ROM, Version 3.1. When it landed in my hands Friday, I was giddy with anticipation. The CD only works on a PC, so I couldn’t try it out on my Mac at work. I finally got it installed on my PC at home this morning. (I had a little Microsoft update to do before it would work.)

The CD version has the whole 20-volume dictionary (published in 1989) and the additions series of three volumes (1993 and 1997). The copyright date on this CD-ROM version is 2004. It is easy to search and navigate. You can turn on or off various features such as the pronunciation key or the etymology. Just as in a printed dictionary, you can see the words that are nearby. A search history keeps track of what you have looked up, which could come in handy if you wanted to go back a step or two in your session. You can bookmark entries. If you choose, you can have the word of the day displayed when you start up. The version I have is a single-user version, and apparently, I will have to re-enter the code that came with the CD every three months for security reasons.

The CD-ROM is expensive; the list price is $295. That is considerably less than the 20-volume set, with a list price of $995. Both can be found for less than the full price in various sources.

A word I looked up this morning was “gobsmacked,” which showed up in copy a colleague was reading this week. The term comes from “gob,” British regional slang for “mouth,” and “smacked,” as in “hit in the face.” The OED’s first citation of “gobsmacked” in print is from 1985. The OED defines it as “flabbergasted, astounded; speechless or incoherent with amazement.” That describes me with my new OED!

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.