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Brother Mark is a pseudonym of The Reverend Dr Robert Jaggs-Fowler, a clergyman, physician, writer and poet. His biography can be found at: www.robertjaggsfowler.com

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Word of the Week – Nidification

I recently purchased a new dictionary.

Not another Concise Oxford Dictionary (COD), but the New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE). The reason was that the 1977 copy of the COD, kept at our cottage in Yorkshire, was no longer suitable for my needs. Increasingly, I found myself frustrated by the absence of the words I was seeking the meaning to. Back in Lincolnshire, matters are very different. There, I luxuriate in a set of twenty volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Duplication of such a monumental work for both homes was not, however, a sensible option. At the very least, it was not likely to get through the “nothing to declare” entrance to the cottage (for which, see my earlier article on the Noble Sport of Book Hunting).

At first glance, the NODE seemed to be an excellent compromise. I am pleased to say that it is indeed that. With far more words than the COD, it also purports to provide the ‘most complete and accurate picture of the English language today’.

Its first major test had, therefore, to be a word that the COD failed to deliver on. The word comes, not from an arbitrary opening of the pages of the NODE, but from a hoarding surrounding a building site in the City of London. There, a few hundred yards from the former home of Dr Samuel Johnson (see Postcard from London (2)), work is progressing in the building of new homes. The hoarding, protecting the site from curious passers-by, is adorned with building-related words, along with their definitions.

Nidification is a satisfying word that rolls nicely off the tongue. As a noun, it means ‘nest-building’. Its origins are from the mid 17th century, being derived from the Latin nidificat (‘made into a nest’), which in turn stems from the Latin verb nidificare and nidus, meaning nest.

Thus, the NODE passes its first test, a stroll around the City of London proves to have lasting educational value and, once again, I have the satisfaction of educating this computer’s dictionary.

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