Friday, 18 March 2005

A generous bequest

From the OED quotation files comes this snippet from a Will of 1710:
J. Addison Tatler, As an eternal Monument of my Affection and Friendship for him, I bequeath My Rat’s Testicles, and Whale’s Pizzle, To him and his Issue Male.

That makes two posts in a week which I have lifted from the OED, or rather from the bits of it one can scavenge from the internet. It’s too easy; I am going to have to ration myself, perhaps to just one quote a month.
I used to dream of owning its twenty gorgeous volumes but by the time I might have been able, by eschewing every other luxury for a year or two, to afford to buy it, I realised that it would be depressing, as the years went by, to know that thousands of words were being added in preparation for publishing supplements and additional volumes, all of which I would want to acquire as soon as they came out.

Now, of course, it is all on the internet, updated quarterly with over 1800 new or revised words, and a subscription to the online edition costs £195 a year plus VAT. This is less than a penny a page, or 54p a day for the whole thing, which is about one-eighth of what I used to spend on cigarettes until a year ago. And of course it is all (for example, the 2½ million quotations) searchable in every conceivable way: in a flash one could check, say, which words used by Jane Austen first came into the English language from French in the eighteenth century.

Those whose response to hearing of such wonders is "So what?" suffer from chronic dandruff, are probably cruel to animals and are unworthy of the privilege of being allowed to speak English.

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