Today is national dictionary day, the most recent in America’s long line of unnecessary national days. October 16th is the anniversary of the birth of Noah Webster, the man who compiled the famous Webster’s Dictionary. Noah Webster was a lexicographer in the late 1700s who decided he wanted to put together a comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It took Webster 26 years to complete his text, and in order to properly map the etymology of each word, he had to learn 28 languages. Creating this massive dictionary was quite a feat to undertake, when you consider the fact that Webster had to learn and decipher all of these words, it is no surprise that it took him so many years to complete. For years, dictionaries were considered purely academic texts, but in recent years with the rapid changes in vernacular and use, the dictionary has become more of a map of common lingo. The English language and all of its various dialects have seen a large amount of evolution in recent years, and with commonly used internet terms gaining steam, it is hard for many to keep up with “real” and “fake” words. The dictionary has become less of a comprehensive compilation of the English language and more of a museum of archaic words and phrases. The growth of information technology seems to have made the paper dictionary almost useless, while leading to a faster growth of online dictionary directories. For now, dictionaries are still being published, and libraries and academic institutions are still more than willing to stock their bookshelves with these massive publications, but it seems like there will be little use for offline dictionaries within the next ten years. In honor of National Dictionary Day, I will end this post with the definition of one of my favorite, scarcely used words, which can be found in your nearest dictionary.
obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.
“they were served by obsequious waiters”