Dear Grammarians,

I shall soon surround myself with shalks, sharing seven shaddocks, and sail shallow shoals in a shackling shallop, or shoddy sailing ship, in search of shalgrams. And should any shabroon among my shalks be slacking, he’ll swiftly be shackled and shamed severely.

This game is called the O.E.D.

I won’t go into detail describing the Oxford English Dictionary. Read about it on its wikipedia page (it has a fascinating history and absolutely staggering numerical attributes) or, better yet, if you are a UR student (or otherwise have access to the online edition), simply go explore it a little. The best part of each entry is the quotations, where it lists the earliest known instances of the word’s use, and subsequent uses of the same word in evolving contexts.

I have been interested in reading this book, which is one man’s account of actually reading the entire O.E.D. from start to finish in a single year.

Professor Longenbach told us that he once heard a lecture by Hugh Kenner, who said that each century had its epic poem: The 17th had Paradise Lost; the 18th, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire; and the 19th, the O.E.D.

See how much fun I had simply going to the section of words that begin with sha-?

Try it. You will never want to use any other dictionary.