I am not a ‘Twitterati’ but this fantastic word was among the 500 (!) new words which were added to the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary, in June 2015. Sounds like ‘Illuminati’ and stands for people on Twitter who have myriads of followers and block your Twitter feed with constant tweeting – they are the Illuminati of our present Twitterworld!
Even if you don’t know anything about Oxford great sights, this OED, the extremely successful Oxford English Dictionary, will have come across your path. It has had the “last word on words” for more than a century and is the largest dictionary of the English language. Not just because it adds words like ‘Twitterati’ year by year but because it aims to include all vocabulary from the Middle English period (1150 ad) onward! In 1879 the London Philological Society made an agreement with the Oxford University Press to work on a New English Dictionary. By the way, Oxford University Press started in the childhood of printing – the first book was printed in Oxford as early as in 1478! But back to the OED. The new dictionary was planned as a 6,400-page work in four volumes. Five years later, the wordworkers had reached the word “ant” under the letter A, in 1906 they had succeeded as far as the letter M, and no further! The scholarly advance at snail’s pace demanded for a shorter intermediate solution in the form of the Concise Oxford Dictionary which was compiled by Henry Watson Fowler and published in 1911. Its title was changed into Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2004 and the centennial 12th edition was published in 2011.This edition contains 1,682 pages of dictionary text and 66,500 headwords – so you will certainly find the phrase ‘as dead as a Dodo’. Hopefully, you will use it adequately ever after (a fitting example is given below in the dialogue). And yes, Dodo may be extinct, but Dodo is not dead as the saying insinuates. Beloved Dodo is very much alive in the minds of all Oxford children and all the visitors of OUM of Natural Science!
With the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a unique place. Historians tell us that teaching (and learning!) already existed at Oxford in 1096 – probably even before – and when 130 years later Henry II banned English students from studying in Paris, Oxford University developed so rapidly, that just a few decades later it attracted even foreign students! In 1190, the first known overseas student, Emo of Friesland, arrived at Oxford University and started Oxford’s great tradition of international links. Until today, students from all over the globe have been attracted by Oxford’s colleges just like Emo 825 years ago. Australian Elodie, for example, a 2015 student of Magdalen College, is deeply awed by Oxford’s incredibly long history: “You can buy an ethernet cable from a shop which was established before Australia was even colonized“, she exclaims. How could one illustrate the layers of history and the winds of time any better! But it won’t take Elodie ten years to return to Australia as it happened with Emo who left Oxford not earlier than in 1200 for his native Friesland in Northern Holland!
After all that paddling back into history we have arrived at Oxford University Centre for the Environment where I am delighted to take a glimpse into the School of Geography and the Environment! Globes plus maps plus brand-new perspectives in environmental research projects – all this involves anticipating and shaping the future! Right round the corner of the staircase, I have a peaceful encounter with two dancing globes – I pretend not noticing that they appear somewhat tipsy. Later, I find the source of their good spirits: a big, fat globe which contains a secret bar!
Two tipsy-curvy globes dancing together at the School of Geography and the Environment
The wooden globe that I am to meet some rooms further on, is much too heavy for dancing. ‘He’ looks very sober and steadfast and I do hope ‘he’ doesn’t know about the bold family members down the hall!
Sober globe, standing steady at the School of Geography and the Environment
As we are back to the streets, alleys and lanes of Oxford the rain has changed into to a fine drizzle which we welcome as a meteorological turnaround. My friends point out the beautiful old colleges and churches to me, it seems as if the limestone buildings claim to have been patronized by Shakespeare himself. Isn’t it a shame, you think to yourself, that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who some experts believe to have been the “real” Shakespeare, has nothing to do with Oxford University. Instead, he entered Queen’s College in Cambridge! He did so at the age of eight – perhaps he would have chosen his namesake school at an older age. But, fans and friends of Oxford, relax! It is Oxford which is mentioned as an outstanding university in Shakespeare’s plays, not Cambridge! Read Shakespeare’s lines from Henry VIII below the beautiful painting of Oxford High Street by Turner.
“Those twins of learning that he raised in you,
Ipswich* and Oxford! One of which fell with him,
Unwilling to outlive the good that did it;
The other, though unfinish’d, yet so famous,
So excellent in art, and still so rising,
That Christendom shall ever speak his virtue. ( Act iv, Sc. 2)
It’s Griffith, the attendant of Queen Catharine, who praises the qualities of Cardinal College in Oxford and predicts that Cardinal College is so excellent that Christendom will ever speak the virtue of its students. Right you were, Griffith – old Cardinal College became Henry VIII College and now is Christ Church College!
By the way, in Shakespeare’s days, Oxford as well as Cambridge University showed only contempt for the works of the great author. His plays were only performed by the “town”, not the “gown”. When students were caught attending one of those forbidden theatre events, they were severely punished. From preserved notes of some students who luckily weren’t caught while watching Shakespeare’s Othello, performed in 1610 by the King’s Men in the Oxford Guildhall, we can deduce that the students had a better understanding of the play’s power than their dignified teachers!