why you can't rely on the "word of the day" in elevators

You probably don't need me to tell you this, but the definitions are not very good.

Yesterday's Skyline Tower Word of the Day was "bell-wether," which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as:

1. The leading sheep of a flock, on whose neck a bell is hung.

c1440 Promp. Parv. 30/1 Belwedyr, shepe, titurus. 1549 Compl. Scot. vi. 66 The bel veddir for blythtnes bleyttit rycht fast. 1591 SPENSER M. Hubberd 296 To follow after their Belwether. 1718 MOTTEUX Quix. (1733) I. 237 He that steals a Bell-weather, shall be discover'd by the Bell. 1847 LEWES Hist. Philos. (1867) II. 254 Men are for the most part like sheep, who always follow the bell-wether.

2. fig. A chief or leader. (Mostly contemptuous.)

c1430 LYDG. Bochas (1554) 224a, I was cleped in my countrey The belweather. 1577 HOLINSHED Chron. II. 40/2 Thomas being the ring-leader of the one sect, and Scotus the belweadder of the other. 1687 T. BROWN Saints in Upr. Wks. 1730 I. 73 The principal bell-weathers of this mutiny. 1794 SOUTHEY Wat Tyler III. i. Wks. II. 50 You bell-wether of the mob. 1848 LOWELL Biglow P. i, 'Taint afollerin' your bell-wethers Will excuse ye in His sight.

3. fig. a. A clamorous person, one ready to give mouth. b. (Used opprobriously.)

c1460 Towneley Myst. 86 Go now, belleweder. 1598 SHAKES. Merry W. III. v. 111 To be detected with a iealious rotten Bell-weather. 1620 SHELTON Quix. IV. xiii. 109 She made me weep, that am no Bell-weather. 1847 HALLIWELL, Bell-wedder, a fretful child. North.

Hence bell-wethering, the fact of leading and being led ‘like sheep.’ bell-wetherishness, tendency to follow one who takes the lead.

1882 Spectator 25 Mar. 388 But for the bell-wethering, there could have been no crinoline at all. Ibid. 387 The gregariousness, and bell-wetherishness of the English people, who must all do the same thing at once.

The Skyline Tower English Dictionary defined bellwether as: "the leader of a group or movement." Well, yes, but, there's no nuance in that. On the other hand, the building is not tall enough to scroll the OED definition past the idle reader's eyes (are there any other kinds of readers of an elevator marquee?).

I should point out that the online OED is, in my opinion, one of the greatest hybrids of old and new technology birthed by the late twentieth century, compared to, say, the 1984 Compact Edition of the OED, which happens to be holding up my computer monitor even as I write. It is much easier to search online, and easier to search the updates.An annual subscription to the OED online costs US$ 550, but I have free, yes, free access to this marvel as a card-holder of the King County Library System, one of the great bargains of all time.

Oh, and the OED's Word of the Day (yes, they have one too, although if they're going to emulate the Skyline Tower they really should have the Muzak Annoying Tune of The Day) for Tuesday, October 22, 2002? Meridian quadrant. Take that, Skyline Tower!

No comments: