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[ontolog-forum] Run, put, and set

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 30 May 2011 21:39:15 -0400
Message-id: <4DE446C3.9050303@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sunday's _New York Times_ had an article about the multiple word senses
of the verb 'run'.  According to the OED, that word now has the largest
number of senses of any word in English:  645.  In second place is
the verb 'put' with over 400 senses.    (01)

In 1928, the record for the OED was held by the verb 'set', which had
over 200 senses in 75 columns of type (when print was the normal means
for distributing dictionaries).  But 'set' is now in third place behind
'run' and 'put'.    (02)

Since 'run', 'put', and 'set' are among the 2000 defining terms used
for Longman's dictionary, this huge number of word senses raises some
questions about the suitability of considering such words "primitive".    (03)

Following is the URL of the article and a few excerpts.    (04)

John Sowa
_______________________________________________________________________    (05)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/opinion/29winchester.html    (06)

HER birthday: must set plans in motion. Run a bath, put on cologne, set 
the table. High anxiety. Run down list: set watch again, put water in 
glasses, set flowers. Run to the window — phew! Watch her put a finger 
to the doorbell. Such joy! What timing! And just as the sun sets, too!    (07)

Thus does an evening beckon, full of pleasantry and promise. But as 
described here it notes events in a manner of considerable interest for 
the lexicographer. For scattered within the vocabulary of this 54-word 
drama are 11 uses of the three most complex verbs in the English 
language: “set,” “put” and “run.” ...    (08)

For while in the first edition of the O.E.D., in 1928, that 
richest-of-all-words was “set” (75 columns of type, some 200 senses), 
the victor in today’s rather more frantic and uncongenial world is, 
without a doubt, the three-letter word “run.”    (09)

You might think this word simply means “to go with quick steps on 
alternate feet, never having both or (in the case of many animals) all 
feet on the ground at the same time.” But no such luck: that is merely 
sense I.1a, and there are miles to go before the reader of this 
particular entry may sleep...    (010)

It took Peter Gilliver, the O.E.D. lexicographer working on the letter 
R, more than nine months harnessed to the duties of what Samuel Johnson 
once called “a harmless drudge” (plus many more months of preparatory 
research) to work out what he believes are all the meanings of “run.” 
And though some of the senses and their derivations try him — Why does a 
dressmaker run up a frock? Why run through a varlet with a sword? How 
come you run a fence around a field? Why, indeed, run this essay? — Mr. 
Gilliver has finally calculated that there are for the verb-form alone 
of “run” no fewer than 645 meanings. A record.    (011)

But why? The decline of “set” is the more readily explicable. Basically 
“I think ‘put’ killed ‘set,’ ” another lexicographer mused to Mr. 
Gilliver in an only-in-Oxford pub chat recently, noting that you now put 
a vase on the mantel, rather than set it there, and put words on paper, 
not set them.    (012)

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