Letting Oxford define your words

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The Oxford English Dictionary is well beyond my means as a writer; I use the one in the Austin Public Library when I need to research the root of a word’s meaning. The OED is also a very entertaining way to spend time at Borders or Barnes & Noble, when you can find a copy unwrapped.

You can subscribe online to the OED for a sum that might eventually equal the cost of the printed edition. At $295 a year, you could have spent enough in just three years’ time to buy a print edition from Amazon, yours forever but not updated like the online version. Or you can just read what the OED editors provide for free on the Web through the Compact OED:


I pawed through it today to find the definition of gubbins, used on a technical mailing list to describe a piece of software. A British writer on the list, Roy Brown, enriched my vocabulary with the little gem:

gubbins (noun): something whose name is either forgotten or not known

syn. dohickey, dojigger, doodad, doohickey, gimmick, hickey, gizmo, gismo, thingamabob, thingumabob, thingmabob, thingamajig, thingumajig, thingmajig, thingummy

Brit. informal 1 treated as sing. or pl. miscellaneous items; paraphernalia. 2 treated as sing. a gadget.

— ORIGIN originally in the sense “fragments”: from obsolete gobbon “piece, slice, gob”, from Old French

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