Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Strap *this* to the back of your cat.

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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]

On-line etymology https://www.etymonline.com/
A go-to reference for anyone interested in the history of words. [DrBob, Apr 26 2022]


       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

       I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out before .. but this has been very baked for a very long time, probably for as long as there have been ordinary dictionaries of the more normal variety.   

       I remember a set of big old volumes in my college library I had a lot of fun dipping into on occasion, each word came with a long list of definitions with dates tracing the evolution of the words meaning & use through history, I used them to check if Terry & Neil were telling the truth about the word nice in Good Omens or had just made it up.   

       Or is the idea just that it would be digitised for easier searching?   

       Would have thought some of them already were by 2005?
Skewed, Apr 26 2022

       Sometimes I feel as if HB is using advertising-style psychological suggestion, because I'd also started wondering about era-specific wordings in history. Great point about dictionaries, [Skewed], which suggests that it wouldn't be impossible to write an 1850s to 1950s translator.
4and20, Apr 26 2022

       You might have missed this bit:
//definition itself should use _modern-day_ words//
Which differentiates it from just "look at old dictionary".
But yes, a good dictionary will have etymological & historical info in there too.
neutrinos_shadow, Apr 26 2022

       [Rolls eyes in exasperation]   

       No [neutrino] I didn't miss that bit, I think you've perhaps never seen a good hardcopy etymological dictionary (as apposed to 'a dictionary'), they have everything this idea asks for.   

       Of course they use modern words to explain the old definitions, as a product meant to explain these things to a modern reader it wouldn't be fit for purpose if they didn't would it.   

       [Rolls eyes in exasperation]   

       Can I have a hit on that thing your smoking? its gotta be some pretty good stuff.
Skewed, Apr 27 2022

       [skewed] is right; the Oxford English Dictionary does this already, and I don't suppose it's the only one. I suppose the only thing missing is a date of obsolescence, which would be a slippery thing to define. We might be able to add that in software by looking at Google n- grams and defining obsolescence as a percentage decline from peak usage. But then we might get caught out by some word that had a brief but ridiculous spike in usage, then subsided to its normal, modest but not really obsolete level.
pertinax, Apr 27 2022

       //good hardcopy etymological dictionary//
Much as I hate to admit it, no, I haven't. The bit that got me was where you said "big OLD volumes"; thinking you were looking at dictionaries of various ages.
Might want to see an ophthalmologist about that eye-roll.
neutrinos_shadow, Apr 27 2022

       //Might want to see an ophthalmologist about that eye- roll//   

       Oh I did, months ago, the exercises she gave me were very helpful, I can maintain it for a whole four minutes now.   

       Her advice on not walking at the same time was very helpful too, it's been ages since I last walked into a lamppost.   

       //bit that got me was where you said "big OLD volumes"//   

       Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could have been then. Sorry.
Skewed, Apr 28 2022


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