Sample Entries

Curious to see what’s inside the dictionary? Want to know more about what I mean by “historical dictionary”? Here are some actual entries from the book:

ansible n. [coined by Ursula K. Le Guin] a device that enables instantaneous communication over any distance.
1966 U.K. Le Guin Rocannon’s World 113: Noting the coordinates at which the ansible sender was set, he changed them to the coordinates of the League HILF Survey Base for Galactic Area 8, at Kerguelen, on the planet New South Georgia.
1977 O.S. Card Ender’s Game in Analog SF-Sci. Fact (Aug.) 118/1: The ansible sent words as they were spoken, orders as they were made. Battleplans as they were fought. Light was a pedestrian.
1988 V. Vinge Blabber in Threats… & Other Promises 254: “It’s an ansible.” “Surely they don’t call it that!” “No. But that’s what it is.”
E. Moon Winning Colors 89: When I was commissioned, we didn’t have FTL communications except from planetary platforms. I was on Boarhound when they mounted the first shipboard ansible.
2004 I. Stewart & J. Cohen Heaven 21: Although an ansible link conveyed messages instantaneously, the link could not be set up any faster than a ship could carry an encryption disk.

galactic n. 1. a (usually alien) member of a galaxy-wide civilization. Often cap.
1942 A.E. van Vogt Asylum in Astounding S-F (May) 9/1: There are no Galactics out here. But there is an Observer. I’ve been catching the secret ultra signals for the last two hours […] warning all ships to stay clear because the system isn’t ready for any kind of contact with Galactic planets.
1954 [R. Dee] Interlopers in Astounding SF (Sept.) 68/2: The galactics traveled in pursuit of trade, making jumps of a magnitude inconceivable to an Earthman’s mind.
1963 [S. McKettrig] World by Tale in Analog Sci. Fact—SF (Oct.) 1: As far as the Galactics were concerned, Earth was a little backwater planet that was of no importance.
1996 D. Pringle, et al. Ultimate Ency. of SF 183/1: All extant galactics have been “uplifted” by earlier races, mainly extinct.
2. the language spoken in a galaxy-wide civilization. Often cap. Compare standard.
1956 P. Anderson Peek! I See You! in Gods Laughed (1982) 138: “Okay, buster, you asked for it,” said Tombak in English. He returned to Galactic: “The trouble is, these aren’t facts you can fit into mass-action equations.”
1957 R. Silverberg Neutral Planet in World of Thousand Colors (1984) 202: He spoke Galactic with a sharp, crisp accent that Harskin attributed to his ursine ancestry.
1964 U.K. Le Guin Semley’s Necklace in T. Shippey Oxford Book of SF (1992) 336: “She say, Hail, Lord of Stars,” growled one of her squat escorts in Pidgin-Galactic.
1990 J. Tiptree, Jr. Color of Neanderthal Eyes 33: So I will end by having these people transcribe their speech into Galactic!

letterhack n. a fan who habitually writes letters to magazine letter columns. Also as v.
1946 T. Jewett Startling Stories (letter) (Fall) 102/2: Nowadays a letter-hack says things simply, which is, after all, the best way.
1947 R. Sneary Startling Stories (letter) (Jan.) 98/2: The rest of ther [sic] letter were pretty good. David Olson is a real promising letter hack.
1958 R.M. Holland Ghu’s Lexicon 12: Give the letterhack a ream of paper, stamps, and one or two other letterhacks for him to argue with, and he will keep happy and tractable for months.
1966 A. Budrys Benchmarks (1985) 57: At least, they do if we are to believe such pseudodocumentary novelists as Hank Searls and such reporters as ex-Planet letterhack Martin Caidin.
1969 H. Warner, Jr. All Our Yesterdays 10: They corresponded, wrote amateur fiction, articles, and poetry, visited one another, feuded, letter-hacked, collected.
1980 [L. del Rey] World of SF 72: I found, during the period around 1935 when I was what was called a letterhack, that I received quite a few letters from other readers.

Stepford adj. [< the title of Ira Levin’s novel (1972), and subsequent movie, The Stepford Wives (1975), in which suburban wives are murdered and replaced with look-alike subservient robots] possessing a disturbing conformity; subservient or docile; artificial.
1981 Washington Post (July) C6/1: Little Miss Beauty Pagent […]. Some of the girls in the 4-to-6 division are practicing their modeling on the runway […]. Walking Barbie Dolls. Stepford Babies.
1984 Washington Post (Nexis) (Feb. 23): The only way the program could be phonier is if all the participants were computer-generated holograms—the Stepford celebrities.
1994 P. Theroux Translating LA 238: The answer was to try to turn everyday life into a theme park, a Stepford City.
1999 J. VanderMeer World Fantasy Convention 25: 1999 in Why Should I Cut Your Throat? (2004) 110: Everyone was so happy and well-adjusted and outgoing that it couldn’t be real happiness—it had to be some kind of Stepford happiness.
2003 Vanity Fair (Sept.) 262/1: Will the palace bureaucracy force her to be a Stepford queen, or will she emerge in her own role?

Comments are closed.