A Brief History
On February 28, 1939, the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition accidentally included a goofy meaningless word among the thousands of legitimate words found in the esteemed text.
When it was pointed out that the apparently new word, “dord,” had been included in the dictionary, defined as “density,” an investigation ensued. The explanation was that the entry that should have been included was simply a capital D, followed by the word “or” followed by a lower-case d. That is, it should have looked like this: D or d.
Chemists, engineers, physicists and the like use the letter D to represent “density,” a function of the weight of an object or material vis a vis a given volume of that material. It is similar to specific gravity.
The mistake was noticed by an editor of the dictionary, and an investigation ensued as to why this mystery word had no etymology associated with it. The mistake was rectified, and in 1940 the dictionary was supposedly printed without the so called “ghost word” though “dord” was not totally excised until 1947.
Question for students (and subscribers): What are your favorite words with suspect or funny beginnings? Could “googol” (meaning a number 10 to 100th power) invented by the 9 year old nephew of a mathematician be a candidate? How about “bug” as in a “computer bug” which derives its name from an actual bug that messed up an early computer? Frenemy? Un-friended? Google? Spam? Jeep? Grungy? How about acronyms such as BOHICA, SNAFU, and DILLIGAF? Feel free to share your favorites with your fellow readers in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
WEBSTER’S NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. SECOND EDITION. UNABRIDGED. G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, 1939.