Happy Birthday, Oxford English Dictionary
In 1857, dismayed at incomplete and deficient status of English dictionaries, the Philological Society of London determined a new dictionary was in order. The first edition was published February 1, 1884. From the Oxford English Dictionary website:
The new dictionary was planned as a four-volume, 6,400-page work that would include all English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period (1150 AD) onward, plus some earlier words if they had continued to be used into Middle English.

It was estimated that the project would be finished in approximately ten years. Five years down the road, when Murray and his colleagues had only reached as far as the word ‘ant’, they realized it was time to reconsider their schedule. It was not surprising that the project was taking longer than anticipated. Not only are the complexities of the English language formidable, but it also never stops evolving. Murray and his Dictionary colleagues had to keep track of new words and new meanings of existing words at the same time that they were trying to examine the previous seven centuries of the language's development.

Murray and his team did manage to publish the first part (or 'fascicle', to use the technical term) in 1884, but it was clear by this point that a much more comprehensive work was required than had been imagined by the Philological Society almost thirty years earlier.

The 1800s seemed to be a good century for dictionaries. Noah Webster published his in 1824, with many subsequent revisions. Webster's, in fact, is synonymous with dictionary. And while the Brothers Grimm may be well-known here for their collections of fairy tales, they left a far greater, scientific work for their homeland. In 1854, the first volume of their German dictionary was published, a work that would eventually span 32 volumes and would be completed over generations. The final volume was published in 1960. More than a dictionary, it encompasses the known history of the German language. I used to spend hours perusing its pages in my campus library...and just discovered that it is being made available online as part of the continuation of this historic work. Check out the first entry...on the letter a which isn't even a word in German.

In favor of greater perspicuity, spend some time looking at a good dictionary with your children. A good one will have all sorts of fascinating information, including a bit of etymology, some different usages and some quotes demonstrating each usage. Maybe they'll turn out like me and when they go to look up a word, they'll just keep reading. And reading. And forget what it was they originally even opened the dictionary to look up. I'm not the only one who does that, right?

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