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dating of words

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Does anyone know a good resource that categorizes words by time periods? I'm constantly wondering if a term or word was used or even invented in the time period I'm writing about. For instance, did we have fallout before the atomic bomb? Did the term mean the same thing?
#1 - July 22, 2009, 11:07 PM
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MichelleBud

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The Oxford English Dictionary (dictionary.oed.com) has etymology and date charts that will tell you when a word was first used and when it was most frequently used, etc. It has certain limitations (because of the method of collecting quotes that the guys who wrote it back in the day used). Also, you need a subscription to access it; however, if you check with your local public library, they might provide access to it for patrons.

Maybe another dictionary does this and it's free to access?

Here's what the OED had to say about fall-out (the formatting got a bit wonky, but it looks like the earliest is in 1950):

Radioactive refuse of a nuclear bomb explosion; the process of deposition of such refuse. Also attrib., Comb., transf., and fig.

                                                                                           1969
                                                                                                                                        1965
                                                                                                                                        1964
                                                                                                                                        1961
                                                                                                                                        1961
                                                                                                                                        1957
                                                                                                                                        1955
                                                                                                                                        1954
                                                                                                                                        1952
                                                                                                                                        1950
                                                                                                                                        [1946]   
   _1100_   _1200_   _1300_   _1400_   _1500_   _1600_   _1700_   _1800_   _1900_   _2000_   _2100_
[1946 Effects of Atomic Bombs at Hiroshima (Home Office) vi. 15 The fall of a small fraction of the radioactive fission products.] 1950 Effects of Atomic Weapons 35 When the violence of the disturbance due to the bomb has subsided, the contaminated dirt particles gradually fall back to earth, giving rise to the phenomenon known as the fall-out. 1952 N.Y. Times 17 Aug. E9/6 Nevertheless, a good deal of radioactive stuff is picked up and carried by the wind and deposited all over the country... So far there have been no dangerous concentrations of radioactive ‘fall-out’, as it is called, that is outside of the proving grounds in Nevada. 1954 Time 20 Dec. 66/3 The most recent H-bomb test (by the Russians) was made in Siberia about three months ago, but the fall~out of fear and worry that the H-bomb tests have caused has by no means died away. 1955 Times 19 July 8/5 An hour after the explosion, radio-active ‘fall-out’ material would be dropping 20 miles away. 1957 Economist 5 Oct. 16/2 A temporary cessation within the Labour party of personal bomb explosions and consequent deadly fall-out. 1961 Guardian 16 Sept. 7/1 Fallout-laden clouds. 1961 John o' London's 28 Sept. 345/1 The make-it-yourself fallout shelter. 1964 Listener 3 Dec. 865/2 The wasteful method of technical fall-out, of just hoping for ideas to seep through. 1965 Sunday Times (Colour Suppl.) 31 Oct. 35/1 After the A.D. 79 eruption this fallout [of ashes, etc.] buried Pompeii in a matter of hours. 1969 Times 2 Sept. 10/3 Two Japanese fishermen died after fall-out had reached their vessel.
#2 - July 23, 2009, 06:23 AM

Rabbit

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A new historical thesaurus is going to be coming out this fall! I'm very excited about it. There were a couple of blurbs on NPR a few weeks ago. Here's a link to one of them:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/library/2009/07/the_most_gigantal_behemothian_1.html

And here's a link to the actual Oxford University site:

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Reference/?view=usa&ci=9780199208999

That should be fun and helpful, too. Like the OED, a bit pricey, but I'm sure worth every penny--or, hopefully, libraries will get it as a resource.
#3 - July 23, 2009, 07:11 AM

Tessa Gratton

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Oh, wow, Rabbit, that thesaurus looks fantastic!  *wants*
#4 - July 23, 2009, 09:05 AM

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Slightly more affordable (thuogh I'm drooling over the new thesaurus!) is English Through the Ages by William Brohaugh from Writers DIgest Books.  I think it's probably out of print, but used copies are pretty easy to come by on Abebooks and Alibris and Amazon. Here's the search results page from Abebooks.

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=William+Brohaugh&sts=t&tn=English+Through+the+Ages&x=61&y=17
#5 - July 23, 2009, 09:34 AM
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redheadedali

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Wow, this is some great information, y'all! My current WIP is a historical, so this is really helpful!  :thankyou
#6 - July 23, 2009, 11:39 AM

Rabbit

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Another book I want is the DARE--the Dictionary of American Regional English... though, I think they've only gotten up to 'S.' Still, this will also be a historical reference at some point, if it isn't already, since regional language is, supposedly, becoming less defined.

I have a book printed in 1949 called A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. Someone gave it to me and it's very, very cool. It's just too bad I only have the East.
#7 - July 23, 2009, 12:27 PM

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Great news, Rabbit--DARE is finished! Thanks for the reference to the Historical Thesaurus. It looks wonderful! And CLK, many large public libraries still have the Oxford English Dictionary in print, so you don't necessarily have to have access to the online version.
#8 - July 23, 2009, 12:42 PM

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Fantastic! I was hoping to find something easier than wading through the dictionary for each word. The Historical Thesaurus is perfect.
#9 - July 24, 2009, 02:39 AM
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- 4RV Publishing, April 2015
NO MORE MR. DAWDLE (Caramel Tree, April 2015)
UNGLUED (Caramel Tree, June 2015)

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Something else that might work for you in a pinch, depending on what period your story is set in: search using Google Books, with date parameters. This is very handy for 19th and 20th century settings. I've used it recently to see if the phrase "heart attack" would have been used in the period 1870-1890. (The answer: yes, but it wasn't as common as you might expect.)
#10 - July 24, 2009, 04:45 AM

MichelleBud

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Oh, wow, Rabbit, that thesaurus looks fantastic!  *wants*

Ditto! I hope libraries do get it as a free resource like the OED.
#11 - July 24, 2009, 06:19 AM

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