Monday, September 22, 2014


Shaw is one of the most oft-quoted authors in the Western world - do I really need to remind anybody of this? Sometimes, however, he is not quoted because of his sharp language, his witty choice of words, and his brilliant ideas. On some occasions, the lexicographers of this world choose Shaw to illustrate words one does not come across all that often. That is the case, for example, of the highest authority in English dictionaries: the OED

All the words in the Oxford English Dictionary include a selection of quotations from different authoritative sources that illustrate the meaning and use of each entry. I am going to reproduce a few of the Shaw quotations the OED selected, together with the words they illustrate - especifically in those cases in which Shaw is either allegedly the first person to have used that word, or one of the few people to have put it in print. This includes neologisms of all sorts: new word-combinations, foreign loan-words, creative derivations, and the like. I guess this is as good a way as any to demonstrate how creative Shaw was in all the areas of knowledge he touched on. 

3.3 Comb. actress-manageress (cf. actor-manager). 
   1894 G. B. {Shaw} in W. Archer Theatr. ‘World’ 1893 Pref. p. xxix, The time is ripe for the advent of the actress-manageress.   
2.2 An outlook, attitude, or point of view. 
   1907 G. B. {Shaw} Major Barbara Pref. 148 The Shavian Anschauung was already unequivocally declared.    1922 Internat. Jrnl. Psycho-anal. III. 377 In many respects however they‥are merely ‘points of view’ (Anschauungen).
Worship of the ‘Bard of Avon’, i.e. Shakespeare. (Occas. used of other writers.) So bardolater (-ˈɒlətə(r)) [-olater], a worshipper of the Bard, a Shakespearolater; barˈdolatrous a., tending to or characterized by bardolatry. 
   1901 G. B. {Shaw} Plays for Puritans Pref. p. xxxi, So much for Bardolatry!    1903 ― Man & Superman Ep. Ded. 30 Foolish Bardolaters make a virtue of this after their fashion.    1905 ― in Sat. Rev. 11 Feb. 170/2 The word ‘pity’ does not reach even the third row of the stalls, much less the gaping bardolatrous pit.    1911 Times Lit. Suppl. 9 Nov. 440/3 Playing for the sympathy of the ‘bardolaters’.    1914 G. B. Shaw Dark Lady Pref. 112 The familiar plea of the Bardolatrous ignoramus, that Shakespear's coarseness was part of the manners of his time.
(See quot. 1949); also, one who pretends to be of lower origin than he is. Also attrib. 
   1898 G. B. {Shaw} Sixteen Self-Sketches (1949) viii. 44 My father was an Irish Protestant gentleman of the downstart race of younger sons.    1921 ― Pref. to Immaturity in Prefaces (1934) xxiii. 627/1, I was a downstart and the son of a downstart.    1949 ― Sixteen Self-Sketches ii. 7 The Downstart, as I call the boy-gentleman descended through younger sons from the plutocracy, for whom a university education is beyond his father's income, leaving him by family tradition a gentleman without a gentleman's means or education, and so only a penniless snob.
Enthusiasm for flogging. Hence ˌflagelloˈmaniac n. and a., (one who is) enthusiastically in favour of flogging. 
   1895 G. B. {Shaw} in Daily Chron. 24 Feb. 8/5 Flagellomania has been victorious by seven votes to five on the Industrial Schools Committee.    1899 ― in Humanity May 136/2 The male flagellomaniac—who is sometimes, unfortunately, a judge—craves intensely for the flogging of women.    1908 Humanitarian Sept. 66/2 We are constantly assured by the flagellomaniac section of the Press that crime is ‘stamped out’ by the ‘cat’.    1917 G. B. Shaw in New Republic 6 Jan., Any newspaper can get up a flagellomaniac garotting scare. 

These are just a few (some of my favourites) of the 3080 quotations in 2527 entries that the CD-ROM version of the OED I own retrieves. If you can spare a few hours and want to do your own query, this is how you perform this search in v. 4.0

First, you open the main window and click on "dictionary." 

Then, you go to "advanced search," where you have to type "Shaw" in the first box and select "in quotation author."

Once you hit "start search," something like this will pop up, where you can scroll down the list of words whose definitions are illustrated by a Shaw quotation. 

Clicking on an entry will take you to the definition, where you can search for the relevant part by using the "find in entry" box at the bottom.

If you want to go back to the list of definitions, you just have to click on "results."

To wrap things up, I find it rather ironic that among the 46 dictionaries that Shaw kept at his Ayot St. Lawrence residence, none of them is the Oxford English Dictionary, and only two of them are Oxford dictionaries. Perhaps the sheer size of the print version of the OED was too much for a man who managed to write sixty-odd plays with pen, pencil, a typewriter, and a small rotating hut.

George Bernard Shaw notebook

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