Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet the (Virtual) Reference Books: Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins

Meet the Reference Books introduces noteworthy encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference materials in Carmichael Library's print and digital collections. Blog posts are contributed by Reference Student Assistants.  The first round of books this semester comes from our Virtual Reference Shelf.  

This post is written by Cassie Wallace, a senior accounting major.  Cassie introduces the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins.  

How did the word “abracadabra” come about? Did you even know this was a real word and not just some babble that came off the top of some famous magician’s head? In fact, this term was once used as a charm against fever in the late seventeenth century and was first recorded in an ancient Latin poem around the second century. Words and phrases with histories such as this are in abundance in the modern English language and the meanings and concepts behind them change every day. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins makes delving into intriguing information about the language around us a cinch!

In what way could we expect to predict the changes that will be made in the future if we do not first research what differentiations we have from the past? The desire to find out where the wide variety of words in the English language comes from is not a new one and is more easily quenched than you may have realized! In the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins you will find that much of the work required to ensure the accuracy of the information has already been done for you. This publication is a great place to answer the questions you have been asking for years about things like “What was someone thinking when they named an insect after butter?” or “Who decided that the word pterodactyl needed a ‘p’?”  These questions and many more are discussed in the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins.

How can you access this wonderful source of wisdom? I am so glad you asked. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins is available through the Virtual Reference Shelf any time of day or night on the University of Montevallo’s Carmichael Library website under the subject heading, “Language and Literature Reference Sources.” Have fun!

-Cassie Wallace

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