"Dord" and other ghost words
Posted by ESC on November 20, 2004
I was trying to finding something on the phrase "lay ghosts to rest" and found this useful term:
GHOST WORDS - "A term invented by the lexicographer W. W. Skeat in 1886 to denote words that are not 'real' words because they have come into existence in error." Mr. Skeat says, in "Transactions of the Philological Society" : "We should jealously guard against all chances of giving any undeserved record of words which had never any real existence, being mere coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or to the perfervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors." From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition).
Ghost words are "spurious terms, the result of errors made by authors, typists, editors, and printers, and they hardly ever become part of the language. An example of a lasting ghost word is 'dord' (meaning density) which can be found in the 1934 'Merriam-Webster Dictionary,' second edition. 'Dord' began life as an error made in transcribing a card that read: 'D or d, meaning a capital D or small 'd' - for 'density.' Eliminated from future Merriam-Webster dictionaries, this ghost word lives on in the 1934 edition." Mr. Skeat's full name is Walter William Skeat. From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).