Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Meta-verbing: to OED

Today's letters to the editor in the New York Times has an inset title "OED'ing" and a set of letters about a piece by Nora Ephron a couple days ago about Scrabble and general lexophilia (or whichever variant of that not-so-neo-logism you prefer).

I didn't comment on the Ephron piece, but to OED has a ring to it, doesn't it?


Joe said...

So, it's 'meta-' because it's verbing about one way people look into verbing, I suppose?

Ben Zimmer said...

Doesn't seem like the verb would have much use outside of those limited contexts where you want to make a pun based on the similarity of OED and OD. And besides, how well-known is the initialism OED beyond dictionary buffs? I wondered about that when I read another Scrabble-lover, Stefan Fatsis (Wall St. Journal sportswriter and author of Word Freak), write in Slate about an NFL quarterback having "the ability to absorb the OED of information dumped on the modern pro signal-caller." How many readers would get the reference (so to speak)?

Mr. Verb said...

True, it's of limited scope. And Fatsis was reaching there, I assume, for a lot of readers, but I wonder if there's not a crowd out there that gets OED. Even in this blog, I generally try to spell it out the first time and then use initials. Or maybe I'm just being optimistic?