I recently finished a book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. I learned that the compilation of the OED started in 1857, which means that before that time there was no English dictionary. Shakespeare was not even able to perform a function of looking up a word--something that we consider today completely ordinary. Writers basically created the meaning to words and/or used words as best they could and hoped that their definition aligned what they were trying to say).
Here’s the interesting thing: it was the general consensus that an English dictionary was needed; people talked about it for years and years. And yet, no one took it upon themselves to get it going. That is, until a group of scholars finally(!) decided to tackle it. And this was no small undertaking, as the only way to collect the words, definitions, examples of the words being properly used in a sentence, etc, was to read/search through books to find them (and then you had to determine if the word was used correctly or not…because again…there WAS NO dictionary to confirm any of this). Talk about exhausting!
The OED was finally officially completed in 1927. Those that had initially devoted their life to seeing it through passed away before it was complete. In fact, they came to realize halfway through their careers as lexicographers that they wouldn’t live to see it all the way through, but they stuck with it nonetheless because they knew it needed to be done and they wanted (to the point of obsession) to do it.
It needed to get done and they did it …and they stuck with it when most folks would (and did) give up after a few half-hearted attempts.
Today we want (and expect) things to happen FAST.
“As Soon As Possible” isn’t good enough for most, and instant gratification is just a way to appease us for the moment.
But we are only able to enjoy the speed and convenience of our daily tasks because others before us had grit. They stuck to it.
There will be a time when our current reality will seem slow to future generations, and I wonder who will looked back on our day and say “Now that person had what it took!”
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