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From Earworms to Podcasting - Oxford English Dictionary

E-resource of the Month – January 2012

What on earth is an earworm? What is LOL an abbreviation of? When did podcasting first appear in the English language?

The online Oxford English Dictionary offers you the definitions of over 600 000 English words. It also gives the etymology of the words, definitions in different time periods, and real life examples of the use of the words. 

For example the term “podcasting” was used in The Guardian already in 2004: 

”MP3 players, like Apple's iPod, in many pockets, audio production software cheap or free, and weblogging an established part of the internet; all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

The basic search options in OED are the Quick search and the Advanced search. In Quick search, enter your search term in the search box. You have two different wildcards in use: the question mark and the asterisk. The question mark ? represents the occurrence of any one single character (c?t = cat, cot, cut). The asterisk * represents the occurrence of any number of characters (c*t = cat, caught, commencement, conflict…).

In the Advanced search you have several different search options - for example language of origin or date of entry in the dictionary. The search result can also be limited and sorted in different ways.

OED covers words from slang to official language. The timeline gives a historical perspective but because the online edition is updated four times a year, it also contains the newest words and the most recent definitions of older words.

The newest definition (updated in December 2012) for "earworm" is:

“A catchy tune or piece of music (or occas. a word or phrase) which persistently stays in a person's mind, esp. to the point of irritation.”

and the etymology for "LOL" :

“Initialism < the initial letters of laughing out loud ; sometimes also pronounced as an acronym”

Let’s just wait and see when OED will have a definition for the abbreviation TGIF.

Ask more: Ulla Pesola


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