Hard Wordes in Plaine English

Scott McLemee writes about the very first English-language dictionary. “At the risk of being overly present-minded, there’s a sense in which Cawdrey was a pioneer in dealing with the effects of his era’s information explosion. Thanks to the printing press, the English language was undergoing a kind of mutation in the 16th century. New words began to circulate in the uncharted zone between common usage and the cosmopolitan lingo of sophisticated urbanites who traveled widely. Learned gentlemen were traveling to France and Italy and coming back ‘to powder their talk with over-sea language,’ as Cawdrey noted.” (via Maud Newton).

Posted April 5, 2007

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