Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Keep out of reach of children.

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Time-travel Dictionary

Look up the definition of ______ in the year ________
  [vote for,

If you're reading a book or article that was written in 1870 and they use the word "terrific", the word probably had a different meaning than is shown in today's dictionaries.

With TimeTravelDictionary.com, type in a word and a year, and the dictionary will give you its definition as it was used in that year.

Ideally, the definition itself should use _modern-day_ words (with their 21st-century meanings), but should explain the _old-fashioned_ use of the word. Else you'd get "clept" defined in terms of "girtisole" and "yeatlet", which would be useless. This ultimate ideal would require labor-intensive rewriting of old dictionaries by literary experts, and would be difficult.

A simpler solution is just a series of 30 or 40 dictionaries stored in parallel. You could simply scan in the most modern dictionary from each decade, 1600 through the present, to create the database.

Graphical controls could be added later to let the user scroll through definitions from 1600 through the present. It would be interesting to see when (and why!) new definitions suddenly sprung up, or see the "[Obsolete]" marker disappear from some older words as you scroll back in time.

Thank you.

phundug, Dec 21 2005

Alphabet development http://janpeters.ne.../stuff/alphabet.gif
not really related at all, except at some high and inchoate level. [calum, Dec 22 2005]


       It should include slang where possible as that tends to change more rapidly. Apologies for giving this only one bun, it doesn't feel sufficient.
wagster, Dec 21 2005

       Very nice. I want one.
st3f, Dec 21 2005

       Check up the definition of 'oats' in Dr. Johnson's original dictionary - great for giggles, and the definition is a lot different from the standard meaning.
froglet, Dec 21 2005

xandram, Dec 21 2005

       Yep, anything etymologish works for me.
Shz, Dec 21 2005

       [d] all of the above   

calum, Dec 22 2005

       A good book that touches on the subject is Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue", which describes how in the 17th century, the newly rebuilt St Paul's cathedral is praised as "awful" and "artificial"
coprocephalous, Dec 22 2005

       was is spelt "aweful", copro?
po, Dec 22 2005

       See also Melvyn Bragg's book "The Adventure of English."
calum, Dec 22 2005

       [po] Sorry, don't have it to hand - recommended read though, to see how English and American English have diverged, and how usage changes.
I don't know that it matters much that the "e" may have disappeared - the root meaning is the same in either case.
coprocephalous, Dec 22 2005

       I thought that this was going to be a new form of grammar for time travelling, but never mind. Anything to do with words gets my vote.
dbmag9, Dec 22 2005


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