ILL, the verb

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 27 17:33:12 UTC 2013

I would suggest searching for "ILL" in its inflected forms, with and without hyphens, in conjunction with "interlibrary or inter library."  But note that this is a predominantly oral term that probably does not get used in formal library literature all that much.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Joel S. Berson [Berson at ATT.NET]
Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2013 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: ILL, the verb

At 1/27/2013 08:04 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>It's funny how one person's old chestnut is another person's exotic
>innovation.  "ILL" as a verb is an extremely common usage in the
>library world, and not a new one.
>Fred Shapiro

I'm sure.  But its appearing in print (well, email message) caught my
eye. (I do "ILL" -- at least on the receiving side -- but I don't
read librarians' journals.)  And if it were in the OED, I would have
passed it by.

The challenging question now, I think, is where and how do we look to
antedate it?  Wilson suggests an origin at the time of the
destruction of the Alexandria library, but contemporary Alexandrian
librarians receiving requests from their patrons for books no longer
available locally would not have used English.

Ben suggested searching for "have to ill it".  He presumably meant
Google Web, not Google Books.  I get 11,500 hits, and 9 of the first
10 are true positives.  But how much effort will it take to obtain
dates?  Will any take us beyond the last few years?  And how many
additional auxiliary verbs and inflections should one try?  "Must ILL
it", "did ILL it", "I ILL'd it", etc.

Searching for "have to ill it" with Google Books yields a mere and
thus deceptively manageable 54 hits.  But this gives the usual
unusable GBooks results, with many false positives, including GBooks'
refusal to honor quotation marks.

I suspect we will have to enlist an army of librarians, hoping we
will find one with a retentive long term memory who will be able to
tell us what long-ago issue of what library journal in which he first
saw "to ILL".


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