Academic journal article Parameters

The Word That Does Not Exist

Academic journal article Parameters

The Word That Does Not Exist

Article excerpt

One day a tired linguist working on the highly esteemed second edition of the 1934 Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary carelessly placed a slip of paper containing the abbreviations for the word "density" ("D. or d. Density") on the pile of slips for words beginning with the letter d. Then another linguist, thinking the slip was in the right place but that the entry on it had been wrongly punctuated, pushed the first four letters together to form the word "dord." He thoughtfully added the descriptive letter n for "noun." Clearly "Dord" was a noun--it rhymed with "board," "cord," and "lord."

The astute editors of the dictionary soon discovered the errant entry but decided to play a joke on the public and leave it in. They wanted to find out if anyone would catch the "mistake." So, appearing in the august second edition of the 1934 Merriam-Webster dictionary, on page 771, in the right-hand column, sandwiched in between the words "Dorcopsis" and "dore," is the following entry: "dord (dord), n. Physics & Chem. …

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