I was just listening to a fascinating discussion about the Oxford English Dictionary. No, seriously.
Apparently, they add words all the time but never take any out. So, not only is it a dictionary but it is also a historical document about the development of the English language.
And rather long.
In has, in fact, over 220,000 words.
Isn’t that amazing?
Ok, so many of the old words are totally unusable because they refer to a world that no longer exists. When, for example, was the last time you ever needed to find your bodkin?
And many, if not most, of the new words are technical, or medical, or something else ending in ‘cal’ which translates into – don’t bother trying to figure out what this word means because you will never see it used anywhere outside this dictionary.
And some of them are from a pop culture which is simply incomprehensible to most of us. Ok, well, maybe not to most of us, but to me at least.
But, even if you don’t understand the words, or use them, it’s nice to know they are there. And, it makes you wonder where they came from in the first place.
Take, for instance, the word ‘dissed’.
According to the dictionary, dissed comes from Black rap slang and is short for ‘disrespect’. As in ‘Why you be dissing me?’. Apparently it dates from the beginning of the 21st century.
Which sounds plausible, perhaps ever probable.
But, it’s wrong.
I know this for a fact because my friend Rita and I invented it in 1968. While walking my dog.
There’s no other way to say this, Patty had annoyed us. It involved a boy. The boy Rita was extraordinarily keen on. The boy Patty was not remotely interested in but was, nonetheless, leading on simply because she could.
We were discussing the situation, in detail. The dog didn’t mind, as long as we kept walking.
And so, we did.
And over the course of the next hour or so, we told each other that we were disgusted by her behaviour. Dismayed by her callousness. Disgruntled by her abilities. Disbelieving, if truth be told, of her abilities. It was disagreeable and distasteful and we were disturbed.
We were also disappointed, discontented and dissatisfied, although looking back on it that might be another story entirely.
Eventually, the dog wanted to go home, and we had run out of words. So, we sadly agreed that friends could be disloyal, concluded that we were ‘dissed’, said goodbye and went home.
Where we promptly phoned each other and kept it going for another few hours. We were, after all, teenage girls.
So, there you have it. Dissed. Meaning: Having and displaying extremely negative feelings. Coined: 1968 in Astoria, New York. By: Rita and me.
And my dog.
Which just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you read, not even in dictionaries.
Rita, by the way, went on to marry the boy. So, I guess he was disinterested in Patty after all…
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)