Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday, vocab edition

Last August, I had taken to a spot at a local university's library.  My quiet corner was a place where even the list of chores I kept in my head had to shush as I read and sometimes wrote for awhile each week.   After the fall semester began, I discovered several tables had been set up near my spot.  A used book sale was underway, each book only one dollar. 

I’m a sucker for a bargain, but I have no room at home for more books.  I’m a wannabe book worm with shelves of the things still needing to be read.  Yet, whenever my concentration wandered from the book I’d brought from home, there the sale tables lay in wait for me.  Did I get up and find another spot to avoid temptation?  No.  I am stubborn.  I was not going to buy a book.   

So I just looked.  Once, to stretch my legs, I trailed up and down the aisles closest to my spot, my neck bowed and cricked as I read the titles.  Fortunately, many there were the library's copies of outdated textbooks or about computer languages deader than Latin and with no hope of being as interesting.  The tables stayed up for weeks, and I found I could ignore them pretty well, eventually.  Because I wasn't going to take any of them home.

Then came the day I wandered too far.  In my defense, I believe my spot was occupied when I arrived at the library, so I went hunting for another one.  I happened to wander by the end of a book sale table I hadn't bothered with before.  More textbooks, more tired reference works, I'd assumed.

Two colossal volumes caught my attention.  Three words on both spines stopped my heart.  And feet.

...Oxford English Dictionary

THE Oxford English Dictionary?  No.  Not here.  No one would sell those.  Well, maybe two of them, if that's all there was...


What.  You mean...that is to say, you mean, the version where all the umpteen volumes are in just two books?  The one that wouldn't occupy miles of shelf space in any given home, like mine?  That one?  THAT ONE?!?!

Oh yes.  That one.

Oh my ever-loving God.

Seriously, folks, I actually looked up to see if anyone else was about to swoop in for this prize.  Had no one else seen these here all this time?  I touched one, lifted it, set it on the backs of WordPerfect manuals (or whatever was underneath it, as if I was paying attention), and I opened it.

Compact OED opened

Understandably, you may not get why I love this dictionary.  I’ll explain.  This compendium is the chronicle of the soul of the English language.  I pored over its pages in college as if reading the secret diaries of my mother tongue.  The OED is not just a book of definitions.  It reveals the definitions' ancestry and the first known use of words in writing.  The dictionary deepens literature and breaks some of its codes.  It's only a little bit of a stretch to say that all the thousands of dollars spent on my higher education was worth it, just to be introduced to these books.

And now every single word in them could be mine for two dollars. Total.

You're damn straight I took those books home, schlepping them to the other side of the campus--I'm telling you, the English Language weighs a ton in late summer--where my car was waiting.  I found room for them on our shelves.  It was only two books, after all.  And I've lived happily with them ever since. 

Says she, like this was a proper fairy tale.  No, I didn’t match soul-destroying obstacles with overcoming heroism; I pounced on a pearl worthy of a greater price, and I’m not sorry.  I’m sharing my geeky confession with you to help you understand why I want to present rusty ol’ words from the OED, and why I’d rather do this on Throwback Thursdays than toss grimace-inducing photos from the late twentieth century onto my Facebook feed.  If I share more OED words, they won’t come with lengthy explanations like now.  Really.

So, with the help of a powerful magnifying glass and a bit of paraphrasing to unpack the dictionary’s abbreviations, today’s TBT Vocab Word from the good people at Oxford:

Repai'ring -- (a noun derived from a verb, rare.)  The act of going or resorting (to a place); (obsolete) return; (obsolete) place of repair or resort.

Earliest recorded use in 1375 by John Barbour in The Bruce:  "Heir I saw the men..mak luging [making camp].  Heir trow [true] I be their repayring.

Page 2493 of the Compact OED

I now own such a treasure because of my repairing to a library. 

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