Hobby words: an update

Hobby words: an update

In July 2018, we continued our 90th birthday celebrations by asking people to tell us about the words that they use in their hobbies. We received hundreds of submissions concerning hobbies as varied as bell ringing and scuba diving, quilting and gaming, and bowls and amateur radio. It will take us a little time to go through them all, but here we take a look at some of the more notable submissions…

How many UFOs are hiding in your cupboard?

What does a spaceship have to do with a scarf I started knitting four years ago? Well, both can be described as UFOs. The first kind of UFO, an Unidentified Flying Object, has been in use since the mid-twentieth century and entered the OED more than 30 years ago. The new sense, used chiefly in the context of crafts, knitting, and needlework, is another initialism, this time standing for unfinished object. Here is a sneak-peek of our definition, which will be published in our March update early next year.

UFO (unfinished object) OED entry

Another word which jumped out was frog, v.: to pull apart a piece of knitting in order to correct a mistake. Our current first recorded use of frog is from 1996, although references to its punning etymology can be seen from a year earlier: ‘If you knit really tightly, you may just have to give up and unravel (aka frog stitch, rippit, rippit) back to that row, then carefully pick all the stitches back up onto the needles again.’

Other submissions from the world of needlecraft include quillow, a handmade quilt that can be folded into an attached pocket to form a pillow, and fussy cut, to cut fabric in such a way as to showcase or emphasize a particular pattern within the print.

New evidence for existing words

Several submissions provided new evidence or information for words already in the OED. A suggestion for maiden, n as a term for the supports of the spindle on a spinning wheel, which we mark as historical and regional, tells us that the word continues to be used in this way. A suggestion for gimp, ‘a tight spiral of thin wire you put beading thread through to stop it rubbing against the findings (catches etc.)’, provides new information relating to our current definition: a silk, worsted, or cotton twist with a cord or wire running through it. The definition as it stands does not cover a use denoting the wire itself and, when the entry is revised, our editors will consider whether to add this to the existing definition or draft it as a new sense.

Campers and griefers

Perhaps due to the relative recentness of computer gaming’s spike in popularity, coverage of gaming terms in the OED is fairly sparse. However, we received more than twenty submissions from that field, which have helped us draft a whole host of gaming words. These include griefer, a player who deliberately spoils other players’ enjoyment of a game; griefing, the act of causing such distress; and camper, a player who spends most or all of a game hiding in a location on a map, ambushing any opponent who comes near. In fact, this sense of camper has been in use from as early as 1995, and was popularized by players of the video game DOOM.

Griefer OED entry

Kitties and Kates

To move our focus to a game that has been around for several centuries, we were thrilled to learn some of the many different regional names for the small white ball at which players aim in bowls. Although we already have entries for jack and kitty, an article in Bowl’s Magazine has provided evidence of block being used in Edinburgh and totem in other parts of Scotland, as well as telling us that pot, cot, and Kate can be found in certain regions of the UK.

DXing with boat anchors

The hobby words appeal received more than forty suggestions from amateur radio enthusiasts, including twenty-six on Twitter from Robin Davies – thank you for helping us!

DX, long-distance radio signals or communications, have been transmitting under that name from as early as 1921. Our first quotation comes from a letter to Pacific Radio News from the Seefred brothers, who were prolific experimental hams in the 1920s. While testing the audibility of radio stations near San Francisco, their fellow amateur radio operators provided them with some interesting information, which in turn has provided us with our first evidence of DX:

When we received letters from ‘DX’ radio men stating that they copied our signals as far as 50 and 60 feet from their phones, it was hardly believable.

Although equipment from the 1920s may be hard to come by these days, DXers need not worry: a boat anchor – that is, an old piece of radio equipment, especially one which is large and heavy, and thus humorously likened to the anchor of a boat – can still be used in DXing.

Another amateur radio submission provides a rather apt finish to this post:

73: The amateur radio code for “best regards”. It is traditionally used as a shorthand at the end of a morse code message, but is now frequently heard in voice communication, as well as written in email and text messages. A less common code, 88, is used to send a more affectionate parting message (“love and kisses”) where the sender and receiver are more affectionately known to each other.

So on that note:

Seventy-three OED entry

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

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