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Many popular words appeared in English due to a mistake in the dictionary: how is this possible

Even the most painstakingly crafted dictionaries sometimes have errors. They are called ghost words. They seem to be there, but they are not really there. But, as it turned out, such ghosts do no harm, on the contrary, they help compilers of dictionaries. How it happened and what ghost words eventually took root and became widely used, the publication said Habr.

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This word can be called one of the first ghosts. Webster defines it as "the state headdress in the shape of two crowns used by the kings of England." It is quite clear that such a word did not exist. But after this mistake, dictionaries began to be studied more thoroughly.

And there were quite a lot of such ghost words, which is not very strange. There are about 470 tokens in the Webster and Oxford dictionaries today. The presence in the general list of 000-20 words that do not actually exist in the English language is a small percentage of error in such a huge study.

And in pre-Internet times, it was extremely difficult to control the presence of such words. Even a brilliant editor won't know all 470 terms. Each more or less rare word, and there are more than 000% of such in large dictionaries, needed a multi-stage recheck.


Today this word is widely used, it is included in all dictionaries with the meaning of "meat juice gravy". But not everyone knows that it came out of a common mistake. In the XNUMXth century, a translator who adapted a cookbook into French made a mistake in the spelling of the word. In the original there was grane, and this word was translated as "spices", but the mistake turned it into grave, and then into gravy, along the way, completely changing its meaning.

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The scribal's carelessness also played a cruel joke with this word. In the XNUMXth century, during the translation of Cicero's Letters to Atticus, he wrote the Greek word sittybas (table of records) as syllabus.

Over a hundred years, many dictionaries have repeated this mistake, and when they realized that it was wrong, it was already too late. In the XNUMXth century, it became common and quite common. Today it can be found in dictionaries with the meaning "synopsis".


And this word familiar to our ears today also appeared due to a mistake. The Scottish language has the word twill. It denotes the same fabric as tweed. But there is also the Tweed River in Scotland. Perhaps the merchants, having heard both words, did not understand that these were different words or did not hear the difference in pronunciation, or did not begin to check how it is spelled correctly. But somehow twill turned into a tweed. And since the 1800s, this word has entered our speech on completely official rights.


This word is also a ghost, but it was still possible to remove it from the dictionary, and it did not become official. In 1934, the word appeared in Webster's dictionary.

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The editor left a note to the originator: D or d, cont./density. He meant to add to the word density that it can be denoted with the abbreviations D or d. But the compiler took D or d as a whole word dord with the value density and added it to the dictionary.

The error was noticed when the dictionary was already printed, and it took as long as 13 years to remove it.

How Ghost Words Help Compilers Protect Copyright

Everything is very simple here: according to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, adopted in 1886, dictionaries also fell under copyright protection.

But the compilers had one problem: how to prove authorship in a dictionary, where, in fact, all the words are the same.

The English language is a national asset. And no one bothers dishonest authors to take the text of another dictionary and pass it off as their own.

This is where ghost words came to the rescue. Authors and compilers deliberately began to add them to dictionaries. And when a non-existent word was found in another dictionary, they were sure that their work had been stolen.

Such intentional ghost words have come to be called fictitious records. In the era of print, they have become one of the most effective ways to protect copyright.

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