1. What is OED's date for the earliest use in English of dashiki? And from what language does the word enter English?

    1969. OED doesn't tell us about a specific language; it only states that dashiki is "of W[est] African origin."

    This is a simple search, using single-term searching, for the word dashiki. The entry provides all of the information for which the question asks.

  2. Horace Walpole created a new English word around the year 1754. What is the word? And what is the evidence that OED provides for Walpole's invention of it?


    The evidence OED provides is a quotation from Walpole's 28 January 1754 letter to Mann concerning his use of The Three Princes of Serendip as a source for the word.

    Resort to combined-term searching ("walpole" and "1723" are your terms; entire entry is your field).

  3. OED cites Mary Poppins for what word (and spelled how)?


    Use single-term searching("mary poppins"--two words--is ["are"?] a single term for these purposes) and search the entire entry field, since you have no way of telling where in the entry the term will turn up.

  4. OED cites both Louis Armstrong and William Shakespeare's Hamlet as sources for varying definitions of what common word?

    One answer (of several possible answers) is cat.

    Unlike the preceding questions, this one is very tricky to answer. Many search strategies yield either wrong information or too much information to be useful. Obviously, the question sends a user to combined-term searching. But it proves not to be helpful simply to search for, say, "hamlet" (or "shakespeare") and "armstrong"; OED uses idiosyncratic and non-intuitive abbreviations ("shaks"; "ham") for many of its commonly-cited sources. The most effective search strategy I devised (and I tried quite a few of them!) looked for "ham" and "l. armstrong" (the latter being OED's properly English way of referring to Louis Armstrong) in the entire entry field, without any limitation by chronology.

  5. According to OED, a Hawaiian word that means "flea" gave English what word? And in what year?

    ukulele (also spelled ukelele).

    OED provides no direct answer to the question about the year in which ukulele enters the language; but its first use follows relatively quickly (1896) upon the introduction (ca. 1879) of the Portuguese musical instrument out of which ukuleles were to emerge.

    Here is another example of combined-term searching. The two terms in question are clearly "hawaiian" and "flea." The most efficient search strategy I found used neither the entire entry field (which produces two words to investigate) nor the definition only field (which produces none). The quotation and source field goes directly to ukulele. In order to use the most efficient strategy, however, you would have needed already to know the answer for which you were looking; and since entire entry will take you to an answer containing only one diversion, it is a reasonable approach. Definition only, however, is not a happy choice, since the definition of the word in question, whatever that word turns out to be, need not include a reference to its etymology.

  6. In 1923, Anzia Yezierska provides OED's first recorded use of what English word derived from Yiddish?

    yenta or yok are both possible answers.

    Combining "yezierska" and "1923" as search terms produces these answers; but the definition only field is, once again, fruitless, since the elements for which you are searching are not part of these words' definitions.

  7. Sometime around the year 1450, the Scottish poet Robert Henryson used a Scottish word meaning "to walk lamely" that OED claims is now obsolete. That word is?

    Yet another instance of combined-term searching, here the problem is finding the best terms to use in your search. Beginning with "henryson" and "1450"--which seems the obvious route--proves to yield far too many possibilities (the first 100 or so of them don't even reach the letter D). Because "walk" seemed likely to yield the same useless result, I resorted to "lamely" and "1450." That search yielded few enough possibilities to get me to the answer.

  8. What is the word of the _____ (how many?) words that OED cites as coming into English from Hausa that is far and away the most commonly used? (Which parts of this question does OED answer for you? Which do you need to know yourself?)

    Hausa gives to English five words, says OED--the result you will get after searching a single term ("hausa") in the etymology field.

    Searching "hausa" in the entire entry field yields sixteen possibilities, but most of these refer for one reason or another to Hausa as a people or a language without therefore suggesting that the word being defined is etymologically derived from Hausa.

    That kind of information is (more or less) a "fact." But you must use your own judgment to decide (or guess) what is (I think) a "fact"--but not "factually demonstrable"--that yam is the one of those five words that is most commonly used in English today.

  9. You're checking OED for a word, now in English but derived from Yiddish, that means "noodle" and begins with the letter f: what is this word? and another word, this one derived from Italian, that also begins with the letter f: what is that word?

    farfel; fettucine

    Combined-term searching ("yiddish" or "italian" and "noodle") in the entire entry field gets these replies very easily.

  10. OED exhibits a voluble flow of words. Of what twentieth-century condition is OED itself therefore an example?

    logorrhea (or logorrhoea)

    This is another tricky search, one that can be resolved, first, by limiting the chronological field to the twentieth century ("C20") and then trying "voluble flow of words" or "voluble flow" or "flow of words" as the (for this purpose) single-search term of choice. The latter choice is the one that produced the fewest possibilities (19) in the entire entry field (and only three possibilities in the quotation text field).

    Usually, you will find that the way you look things up in OED are not so dependent as they are here on the idiosyncratic approaches taken by someone who is trying to make things difficult for you.

    Return to OED Quiz.

    Last update: 22 August 1996.