January 16, 2013

Pundigrioh No You Di'nt!

Papa Pundigrion alerts me to a deluge of pundigrion-related lexicographical news that passed me by last autumn. From The Guardian:
The new Chambers rides to the rescue of pundigrion

The 12th edition of Chambers has just been published....

This volume is more than an exuberant dictionary.... [It] also includes lists of "words to cherish" ("arctophile", "roscid"); "words with pleasing sounds" ("mumpsimus", "tosticated", "williwaw"); "super-slang words" ("skank", "scrote", "cum-savvy", "meemies", "tweedler"); "extinct words" ("bejade", "giglet", "pundigrion"); and "100 words to watch" ("dumbsizing", "foodoir", "notspot").
I'm not quite sure why 'pundigrion' was singled out for the headline when it occupies a dreary parenthetical backwater in the actual article — I can only assume it was to capitalise on this blog's fantastic reputation — but the fiery response from the Macmillan Dictionary Blog gives it the pride of place it deserves:
Why say pundigrion when you could say pun?

[Robert McCrum's Guardian piece] was largely devoted to two themes: first, the inevitable ‘new’ words (most of them far from new in fact), and second an enthusiastic survey of the various obscure and obsolete words Chambers had ‘rescued’ from oblivion. One of these was pundigrion. Heard of it? No, I thought not.... Rare words are rare for a reason: they have not been found to be useful, and have quietly died out.
Steady on, old bean.
Pundigrion, for example, means the same as pun, so it’s no mystery that it failed to make much impact on the lexicon of English. (The OED gives it the label ‘Obs. rare’, which means it is not only obsolete – its last recorded use was almost 200 years ago – but it was never in common use even when still ‘alive’.)
Look, all that proves is that the OED doesn't read my blog. Why do you have to be such a killjoy?
I don’t want to come across as a killjoy: there is a place for words like pundigrion.... But we need to keep in mind what dictionaries are really for... a resource for helping its users understand what they read or hear, and for enabling them to communicate more effectively.... Anyone who thinks the function of a mainstream dictionary is to preserve words that have been (rightly) obsolete for centuries should try talking to a lexicographer.
KILLJOY. Anyway, I disagree. Anyone who wants to communicate more effectively these days Googles the words they don't know, or uses their computer's built-in dictionary. When I pick up an honest-to-god paper dictionary, I want to browse, and see not only pundigrions, but apocynthions, octodecimos, and frontes. So put that in your pundigrion and smoke it.

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