Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Recently, during the tragedy of the cruise ship "Costa Concordia" off the Tuscan coast, in dinner conversation with a group of people, I used the word "FOUNDER". None of the seven other people in the group had ever heard the word used to describe a sinking ship.
Feeling challenged, I immediately went to the Oxford English Dictionary. (Les says the OED is the only sacred book in our house!) Whew! With six incredibly intelligent people sitting there, doubting my knowledge of the word, and feeling under siege, I was relieved to find the definition there which matched my usage. One of the doubters said, "Oh, that's just ENGLISH!" I then whipped out the Webster's Third New International Dictionary and the definition was there also!
Gerald kept saying, "Go to the internet!" but nothing feels better than cracking open the OED!
I said that I'd heard the word used by my mother to describe stumbling and falling (e.g., like a drunk falling down) but I also knew that she had used the other meaning to describe a sinking ship or a cave-in.
As John Muir wrote about Catharine Merrill: "Knowing her was a liberal education! Thank you, Mother for a wealth of words!