Monday, June 11, 2007

here's a theory I tossed off earlier

How often have you wanted to date a dictionary? I don't mean date as in go out with, I mean date as in establish the age of accurately. It's not like dendrochronology where you can just slice it in half and count the rings, after all. Obviously you could just turn to the front endpapers and check the publication or most recent reprint date, but let's assume these pages have been lost....how often does that happen? No, a lot. It happens a lot.

In these circumstances you're up the creek without a paddle, aren't you? How the dickens are you going to establish the age of the dictionary? Well, here's how. Look up the word "masturbation". No, don't be alarmed, this is for academic purposes only. The gist of my theory, getting to the point at last, is as follows: you can establish, broadly, the age of a dictionary by assessing, in an informed manner, the contents of the definition of the word "masturbation". One could draw a graph from the pre-1950s definitions involving the words "self-abuse", "self-defilement", "beastliness", etc. etc. to the more non-judgementally factual modern defintions, if one were inclined to do so, with the exact date being derived from where the definition sits on the line between the two - as below:



Impressed? No? Well, it's better than the one about the brontosaurus.

3 comments:

everlands said...

Fascinating how you knock these out. Only you could pull it off!

Fnarr.

The Black Rabbit said...

Just in time.
I've got a whole bleedin cupboard full of dictionaries missing their front pages. Must be dozens of the bastards.

I have been racking my brains, desperate to know how on earth I was going to begin to date them.
I had only just decided to smash my brains in on the kitchen table, rather than wake up again, and have to see dozens of un-dated dictionaries in the house.

You've saved my life, so you have.

Thank fuck for you.

The Black Rabbit said...

Oh yes.


"Swivel in the dictionary", rice-boy.