Monday, January 23, 2006

More OED fun

The OED's periods of free access continue to be a fascinating source of information. I'd recently encountered the word elsewhen on a LibraryThing profile and thought it was a delightful neologism -- turns out it actually dates back to 1418. What's more, it was part of a whole clan of now-forgotten cousins, including elsewhat (first recorded in AD 840), elsewhither (1000), elsewho (1542), elsewise (1548) and elsehow (1666). In a similar vein, prepone -- the opposite of postpone -- turns out not to be a recent invention of Indian English; it was first used in its current sense in 1941, and had been used with the meaning 'to set before' as long ago as 1549. I was also pleased to find ramp, the West Virginian word for a very pungent kind of wild onion; I'd never seen it in a dictionary before.

Because I've been doing some research into the history of the song 'The Lady is a Tramp' (more on that later), I was curious as to when tramp was first used to mean 'loose woman'. It turns out the first written example is from 1922, which fits in with what I had in mind.

Much more of this, and I may end up having to buy a subscription -- which, of course, was probably the promoters' plan all along ...

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