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Notes from the Lexicographer

Resource Center - Foundation

The main entries in this dictionary fall into various categories. Many of the items are from the common vocabulary of English, such as credit, debit, deadline, volunteer, alumnus, and brochure, all of which are used in their customary meanings by fundraisers. Some of the common-vocabulary items do not have all senses of that word in this dictionary. For example, bleed admits only a printing sense here, and fundraisers, at least at work, recruit personnel and volunteers, access only computer data, and flag only an entry in a list.

Other items have acquired a new or borrowed transfer use, such as sleeper (here, an originally unknown or unimportant donor who has emerged later as a major donor), targeted market (potential donors toward whom a concerted effort is to be directed), and cultivate (to develop the interest and involvement in a prospective contributor or volunteer).

Some lexical items have a common meaning in all English-speaking countries but also have an extended meaning in a particular country. For example, land in the sense of the solid part of the earth's surface is not recorded here since this meaning is universal; however, the word is entered so as to show its additional, special usage in Scotland and South Africa.

Relevant to fundraising are also various tangential concerns, such as finance, accounting, and banking; law, property, estates, wills, trusts, and annuities; welfare and other government assistance programs; and taxes and taxation. Certain editing and printing terms are also included, such as dummy, galley, font, and stet.

As elsewhere, the computer has become standard furniture in the fundraising office. A few pertinent computer terms, such as telecommute, CD ROM, and the like, have been entered, but it did not seem necessary to include many of the older, common terms, such as DOS, error message, file, or floppy disk. With new computer terms entering the language almost daily, any concentrated effort toward picking out a genuinely selective list would have been frustrating. A Glossary of Computer Terms of some of the more useful and more common terms can be found in the back matter.

As for levels-of-usage labels, rather than breaking down items into such categories as slang, colloquial, and so on, it seemed more useful to put together, into the catch-all "Informal," all words and phrases that one would not be inclined to use in a fundraising proposal but that might comfortably slip into a brief exchange at the coffee machine or in a workaday brain-picking session.

The fundraising profession has, of course, its very own specialized words and phrases. Some of the phrases would not, strictly speaking, be considered bona fide phrases in regular dictionaries. Items such as (the) ask, double ask, triple ask, and multiple ask might not appear to be special phrases, however, each of these has a specific meaning not entirely shared by the other three. In fundraising they are firmly set terms and are given main-entry status for that reason.

This policy also holds true for many clusters and stacks. Certain set items, such as piggyback, gift tax, fundraising, and charitable gift, many of which are common fare in desk dictionaries, are further incorporated into longer set phrases in the fundraising lexicon, such as piggyback mailing, annual gift-tax exclusion, centralized fundraising, and charitable gift annuity. Several of these terms are intrinsically tied to legal terminology.

In many clusters, the inevitable hyphen raises its ugly head. The editors are well aware not only of the inconsistent use of the hyphen in contemporary writing (coupled with its equally inconsistent appearance in dictionaries) but also of the modern tendency to simply avoid the thing as often as possible. Advertising has just about wiped it out completely. At the risk of appearing archaically prescriptive, we have chosen to use the hyphen in certain clusters where not to have it would leave many clusters ambiguous as to what modifies what, especially to a novice in the field, whereas an old salt knows perfectly well what modifies what. Hyphenation in this dictionary is not meant to be instructive or even necessarily a guide to usage in all cases. To the initiate-writer or reader-who is a babe in the hyphen woods, we have felt that a judiciously placed hyphen here and there might serve as an oasis, without risking the intelligibility of English worldwide or even offending other English-speaking nations.

The non-American form of hyphenated words, compounds, and open words does not always correspond to American usage. For example, the U.S. databank (or data-bank), database (or data-base), and dateline generally appear in British and Australian dictionaries as data bank, data base, and date-line. Only occasional effort had been made to show these differences. Even so, American dictionaries frequently disagree among themselves on such usage.

Radio and television have, of course, long been mediums spreading English, especially American English, to remote parts of the world. Now with the additional technology of world-wide computer networking, much of the vocabularies of the major English-speaking countries are melding by the minute, with most of the traffic being one way. Ageism, bar code, ghetto blaster, psychobabble, user-friendly and dozens of other words, most of which are originally American, continue to pour into other English-speaking countries, and even into non-English-speaking countries. But Americans do not hear much about the British drawing pin (a thumb tack), or council flat (a public-housing apartment), or the Australian to dingo (to act in a cowardly or treacherous manner; shirk), or to shout (to treat another person to drinks). On the other hand, muesli (granola), perk (perquisite), posh (stylish, elegant), digs (lodgings), and a few others, all originally British, have found their way west. To label such as perk as "originally Brit." did not seem useful for this dictionary.

As with any other dictionary that aspires to be international, country labels, such as "British" or "Australian," are frequently to be considered with caution. Here, the inclusion country label indicates that the lexical item is both understood and used in that country, is probably in the common vocabulary of that country (or at least in common usage of a specialized occupation or discipline if the item is restricted), and is more than likely not in the common vocabulary of other English-speak countries although it may be intelligible, and even used, by a few people or a select group there.

Conversely, the absence of a country label at any item does not mean that the item is not understood in other English-speaking countries. Since this is an "American" dictionary, written by an American fundraising organization, terms with no labels can be assumed to be American, or American and Canadian. Many of these are also intelligible and used worldwide. A few items, such as billion, certified public accountant, and fiscal year, are marked "U.S." or "U.S. & Canad." since the use of these items is generally restricted to those countries. Words labeled "Austr." are generally understood to be Australasian. Similarly, words labeled "Brit." are generally understood to be in use throughout the United Kingdom and, in most cases, the Republic of Ireland. Various references were consulted for updated confirmation of some items.

But the semantic waters often get murkier. The verb to table has caused more than one misunderstanding at international conferences. In the United States it means "to postpone or shelve discussion of a matter"; in the U.K. and south of the equator it means "to present a matter for discussion."

A few of the historical terms-such as capital transfer tax, death duty, Filer Commission-are included since they are frequently used in current literature.

Subject labels are not offered. For words that are special to printing, law, computers, and other fields, either phrases such as "in printing" or "in law," precede the definition of the item, or an obvious indication is in the definition itself; however, many words that are common to both legal terminology and the common vocabulary, items such as will and trustee, are not signaled. And with the single exception of the French cy-pres, the pronunciation of words is not offered.

The whole messy subject of upper versus lower case and periods versus no periods in abbreviations has been gleefully resolved by using upper case and no periods throughout the dictionary. To be consistent with our exceptions, a few items, such as Ltd., plc, and Inc. are recorded as they customarily appear. As in other disciplines, initialisms and abbreviations are often spoken as if they were acronyms.

R.L. Cherry
January 1996
Revised August 2002

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