Trivia

Hard

According To The Oxford English Dictionary, The Most Diverse Verb In The English Language Is?

Put
Set
Run
Stand
A race at the 2018 U.S.A. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
jenaragon94/Flickr

Answer: Run

According to a lengthy analysis conducted by the Oxford English Dictionary lexicographer Peter Gilliver in the late 2000s, the word “run” overtook the word “set” as the English language word with the most diverse set of meanings.

How did run, well, overrun the competition? You can attribute its rise in usage (and the diversity thereof) to the rise of machines (especially computers), but also to a shift in cultural expectations. Not only do we use the word run to talk about machinery and computers—our car runs out of gas, we run a program, and so on—but we also run ideas past our boss, take the money and run, and otherwise use the word beyond simply describing the physical act of running or the antiquated mechanical use of it.

Even the image we selected for this trivia question evokes multiple meanings of the word: runners literally run around the track, the clock runs out (perhaps literally, perhaps figuratively on the hopes of a particular athlete), one of the race’s losers might run their mouth to the press about why the race was unfair, the newspaper editor might take the story and run with it, ensuring the presses were running hot the next day with the story. As such, you can see how run is a diverse and active word for a diverse and active age.

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