That Dictionary Exploded

Reading & Writing

Two entries ago I posted a photo of my 1783 dictionary (now sadly falling to bits through over-thumbage) and you asked me to expand the page-view for a better nose-around. At least I think you did before jumping off into a heated discussion about Arabic jinns, Hodnidods & Pegotty Wing-Wings on the same comments page (I love the comments and read them all). So here are three close-ups I took from this pocket dictionary (theoretically; you’d need a deep pocket, maybe in something like Fagin’s coat) or as I think of it, an actively-shedding linguistic salamagundy.


18 comments on “That Dictionary Exploded”

  1. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    ‘Receipt, f, a reception, admiffion, acquittance’

    ‘Recipe, a Medical bill, prefcription, receipt’

    I’m confused already.
    Doctors still use the R with the crossed bit to indicate recipe on handwritten prescriptions, and I have seen receipt used instead of recipe in old cookery books, but it seems whoever wrote the second definition didn’t read the first one. Or vice versa.

  2. snowy says:

    It gets more complicated: *takes deep breath*

    Recipe – which doctors shortened to Rx, is the second person singular imperative form.

    Which makes it a verb, and it means ‘take’. As in “Oh dear, you appear to be a bit blocked up – down below: take this pint of mercury and jump up and down for a bit.”

    It then crosses over into instructions on how to prepare food, in the sense of ‘gather together these ingredients’, before shifting into a noun form for ‘instructions for preparing food’.

    Any clearer? [probably not!]

  3. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I suppose then that receipt in the sense it is used now, (aka acquittance if you are a lawyer) acknowledges that you have taken a payment.
    Latin at school was always about Gallic wars, not anything that could be remotely useful.

  4. Debra Matheney says:

    I have a fascination for lexicography and lexicographers, starting with Dr Johnson. I think the whole process of defining a word is amazing. I met a real life lexicographer, a dying profession, at a Jane Austen convention and gushed over him to his embarrassment.
    In London in the 1970’s there was a small kiosk from which the owner sold nothing but various editions of Johnson’s dictionary. He took time with this then poor student and showed me his wares. It was a lovely experience I have always remembered with fondness.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    So where did I get the idea of a separate letter for the internal s? I could have sworn there was a difference between that and the lower case f . Yet another area where I have been labouring under a misapprehension. Although the s doesn’t have as distinct a crossbar as the f . Thank you for doing this, Chris.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    In the original I went off shaking my head sadly. Still am.

  7. Peter Dixon says:

    Oh my word, this is complicated.

    The letter S was originally ancient Semitic and was an archer’s bow placed on its back – like a curly W, this was around 1750 B.C. It later became W, used by the Phoenicians to represent ‘shin’. By the time the Greeks got it it was a kind of backward ‘Z’ and the Roman version happened around AD 100 and is what we recognise as an S today. By the Renaissance the lower case ‘s’ became handwritten in Italian manuscripts as a lower case ‘f’ shape, and this was copied by early printers to make lowercase type, but they also used the standard small ‘s’ for no obvious reason (or reafon).
    This use was common throughout the 1400,s and onwards until it finally became obfolete in the late 1700’s.
    Our ancestors didn’t read it as an ‘f’ because it was italicised and meant s.

    All of our alphabet is a mongrel accumulation of shapes that began over 3000 years and have changed considerably i intervening years by the linguistic needs of different dominant cultures.

  8. Peter Tromans says:

    It falls to me to say the long s – the symbol doesn’t seem to be available on my phone – is still in use as the integral sign in mathematics. Without a horizontal bar, it’s the usual integral (summation). With the horizontal, like an italic f, it’s the principal value (which means that you have nicely disposed of bits that don’t add up in a well behaved way).

  9. Peter Tromans says:

    Can’t stop now. Instead of the horizontal bar, you can have a circle, which means you have integrated (summed) around a loop and got back to where you started. Not very interesting for linguistics, but very much so in fluid mechanics and any kind of field theory (in a mathematical rather than agricultural sense of a field).

    Another situation where they are still active are the sound holes in the front of a violin. I think this is because long, elongated holes are more effective than other shapes in radiating energy from the sound box.

  10. snowy says:

    The Gallic Wars, [and very probably the Punic Wars], explain quite a lot of what happened in the period of European expansion from the 16th Century onward.

    It was a section of history most well educated men would know, and every Army officer* candidate was expected to have studied in detail.

    [* Ordinary soldiers were just expected to do what their betters told them, and not make too much fuss when they had bits blown off.]

  11. Andrew Holme says:

    During that wonderful food show ‘Two Fat Ladies’, the late, great Jennifer Patterson insisted on calling a recipe a receipt.

  12. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Snowy – that doesn’t mean that 14 year old girls would find it interesting. I suppose I should be grateful that girls were allowed to learn Latin – Greek texts were considered far too rude for girls I think 🙂

    Like many things I was forced to read at school, it is probably worth rereading now that I am old enough to understand it.

  13. snowy says:

    I don’t think many 14 year old boys were that bothered either, not if they were stuck in a room with real live 14 year old girls to ‘think about’.

    ‘Classics’ originally had a purpose, it would equip a man or woman with every thing they needed to know of the world. But while the outside world changed, the academic world carried blithely on inflicting in onto children without any context, usually delivered by tutors that had no clue as to why they were teaching it.

    Syllabuses were/are full of the strangest, arcane things that linger on decades after they have lost any practical application. I have been taught: the correct procedure for the cleaning, preparation and use of ‘The Nelson Inhaler’, how to fillet an orange and how to knit** my own computer memory*. 3 things I have never, ever needed to do.

    [* Not as daft as it sounds when you understand why and the technology available when they first invented it – there is a nice period video linked above for those interested. ]

    [**To Helen and other experts in this area , I know it’s not really knitted, but I’m not sure what else to call it, Tapestry? Cross stitch? Woven?]

  14. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    It reminds me of rag rug making.
    Your school seems to have given you more interesting useless things to do than mine did.

  15. Peter Dixon says:

    Oh, chiz chiz, as any fule kno HISTORY has little to do with gurls and is all about KNOLEDGE. Unfortunately it began with a lot of barons who opresed everbode, then they became respectable and still run lots of the countrie. Fotherington-thomas is a sissy and would allow gurls to get away with anything; ‘hello clouds, hello flowers, hello gurls etc etc’.

    Apologies to Americans and other foreigners who have never read Wizz For Atoms.

  16. Ian Luck says:

    I used to love that ‘Two Fat Ladies’ show. As un-PC as you like. I can see BBC executives fidgeting uncomfortably at the title, even now.
    They were great fun, and if something needed booze in it, slosh as much as you can in it. They were people from another time, who didn’t give a toss. TV cooks like this were always worth watching, even if you didn’t cook. The great Graham Kerr, with his occasional ‘short slurp’ from a glass of booze, or Keith Floyd, seemingly perpetually hammered, but brilliant, made cookery entertainment.

  17. Helen Martin says:

    Loved the two fat ladies and their motorcycle. It wasn’t just alcohol that was sloshed in; they used incredible amounts of butter, lard and other fats. Graham Kerr developed a serious drink problem and had a difficult battle to get it under control.
    Started watching the Apollo video, Snowy, but the news is covering the end of the Berlin Wall and I don’t think a half hour of boring professors (were they afraid of speaking up?) is helping. I’ll take Cornelia’s word for it for now.

  18. Ian Luck says:

    I’ve touched a bit of the Berlin Wall. There’s a large chunk of it at The Imperial War Museum, Duxford. It sits as part of a Cold War display. Not far away from that, is a section of Saddam Hussein’s ‘Supergun’. It looks like a section of very thick steel oil pipe. There are signs on it warning not to touch, as it’s covered in a layer of protective oil. But do touch it. It’s incredibly tactile and smooth, like a Barbara Hepworth metal sculpture.

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