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The Extraordinary and the Ordinary in the Language

09 Oct

I’m doing a Course on Understanding English dictionaries from Macmillan and Coventry University at Futurelearn.com (Link: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/understanding-dictionaries) now. And as I was reading sections on the history of Oxford English Dictonary (OED) compilation, I came across this peculair fact of the choices the readers made while searching for the words to send to the OED editors:

One risk related to this practice is that readers tend to gather such citations with a bias towards uncommon usages.

This reminded me of how often the learners of English pay attetion to some extraodinary, bizzare, or unexpected words and meanings to the detriment of commonly used words and meanings which are much more crucial for the successful learning of a language, especially at the early stages of learning.

However, this bias doesn’t seem surpring to me at all, considering the fact that it’s in the nature of our attention to notice and focus on something that stands out of our daily routine.

This makes me think that teachers and learners alike while having fun with surprising or extravagant aspects of the language, should in fact train themselves to notice the ordinary, the usual, and the inconspicous, thus making at times truly astonishing discoveries.

 

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