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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



At an outdoor used book sale in the plaza in front of Shimbashi Station in Tokyo on Wednesday, I bought a three-volume set of the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary for five thousand yen. Until now, I knew this dictionary mainly as the one referred to fondly by people who objected to the innovations of the 1961 third edition.

It is an impressive work. This second edition was published in 1934; the copy I bought was printed in 1944. I have only just begun delving into it. The front matter includes a long and comprehensive account of English pronunciation and a New Words Section, dated 1939, listing words and senses not included in the 1934 edition. They include:
ad-lib
agitprop
agrobiology
American Labor party
Anglistics ("Linguistic study of English.")
aquacade ("An elaborately staged water spectacle consisting of exhibitions of swimming and diving, acrobatics, and group evolutions, with musical accompaniment.")
Aryan ("In the Nazi ideology, belonging to a supposed superior Caucasian race without admixture, esp. with no Semitic strain.")
audition (as a verb, labeled as "Cant, U.S.")
Autobahn
aviator's ear

tomography
total war
trigger man
("The gunman who shoots the victim in a murder by a gang. Underworld Slang.")
unipod
video
("adj. [L. videre to see]Television. Pertaining to or used in the transmission or reception of the image; as, video channel; video frequency.")
vigilantism
Welsh Corgi
Works Progress Administration
youngberry
Zonta International
zwitter ion
There are also four pages of photographs of the dictionary's editors; one of those pages is reproduced below.
(March 22, 2003)

Webster's Second editors