Dord: The Ghost Word

Rerun: Webster’s New International Dictionary (Second Edition) was the largest book to be mass produced, but - as was revealed on 28th February, 1939 - it contained an embarrassing error: on page 771, between the entries for Dorcopsis (a type of small kangaroo) and doré (golden in colour), was the word ‘dord’. Which doesn’t exist. 

The mistake had arisen from a note submitted by the dictionary’s Chemistry Editor, Austin M. Patterson, who had intended to include ‘D or d’ as an abbreviation for ‘density’. It became the most celebrated example of a ‘ghost word’.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether the time is right to re-introduce ‘dord’ to the dictionary; reveal how the word ‘ghost’ itself contains a ‘ghost letter’; and explain why the the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Dictionary deliberately included an entry on fictitious photographer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel…

Further Reading:

•‘The Curious Case of “Dord,” the Dictionary-Defined Word That Doesn’t Exist’ (MindBounce, 2020):

•‘What Are Ghost Words?’ (Grammarly):

•‘Ask The Editor: Ghost Word’ (Merriam-Webster, 2011):

This episode first premiered in 2022, for members of 🌴CLUB RETROSPECTORS🌴 - where you can also DITCH THE ADS and get weekly bonus bits, unlock over 70 bits of extra content and support our independent podcast. Join now via Apple Podcasts or Patreon. Thanks!


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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Ollie Peart.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2023.

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