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At the end of this handout, you will find a list of words. Choose one that appeals to you, and look this word up in the OED online. Using the dictionary, you will research the word’s origins and trace its development, then write a brief, 750-900 word report (~3-4 pages) on your findings that includes:
1. the Indo-European origins of the word (if it has a root word, look that up too!)
2. at least three historical shifts in the word’s meaning
3. two examples of how the word has been used in works of literature
4. one use of the word that you find especially interesting or fascinating, and why
5. how the word is used today
6. your observation of how the word has changed, and a best-guess claim as to why you think the changes have occurred since its initial usage to the present day.
That sounds like a lot. A simpler way to think about the goal is that you want to use the OED and other sources, as applicable, to explain how and when the word entered English, and how and when it has changed since it first entered the language. You can find most of this information in the OED entry directly. But, you will also be positing your own theories as to why the word changed, based on internal and external linguistic factors. Note: these theories are your best guesses. They do not have to be 100% accurate, but they should be based on logical, possibly accurate reasoning.
Word List:
Awful, Throw, Dinner, Gentle, Flux, Sly, Meat, Pretty, Nice, Cheater, Buxom, Fantastic, Cock, Spinster, Smart, Warp, Quell, Leech, Eerie, Bachelor

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