It’s Wonderful Words Wednesday at the River Houses! On this day (28 February) in 1939, an editor working on the third edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary was examining the second edition (1934) to see what entries should be updated. He came across the word “dord,” a synonym (according to the dictionary) for the word “density” as used in physics and chemistry. The word had no associated etymology, so the editor decided to investigate.
Upon investigation, it turned out (amusingly and embarrassingly) that there is no such word as “dord,” even though it appeared in the big Webster’s New International Dictionary. A specialist working on the previous edition had submitted a request to have the letters “D” and “d” added as abbreviations for “density,” but the request slip was written “D or d”—and through a series of minor editorial missteps, this became “Dord” and it was added the dictionary as a word meaning “density.”
In later editions, after it had been spotted, the error was removed, leaving the dictionary more accurate, but less entertaining.
A little lesson for your homeschool students: dictionaries are compiled by people just like you and me, and even though they try very hard to be accurate, sometimes they make mistakes just like we do.
What wonderful words have you found and what literary discoveries have you made in your homeschool lately? Tell us in the comments! 😊
❡ Explore more: The delightful Fun With Words website (fun-with-words.com) has the full story of “dord,” along with a lot of other wild and wonderful words to explore.