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Charles and Camilla award prizes to leading universities and colleges

Glasgow University thesaurus project recognised by Queen’s Anniversary Prize.

A decades-long effort to compile a historical thesaurus of English to aid the nation’s understanding of the language has earned a leading university a prestigious award.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall celebrated the achievements of Glasgow University and other academic institutions when they presented them with the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education at Buckingham Palace.

Glasgow University was recognised for a 53-year project to compile more than 797,000 worlds into a two volume and online resource for language lovers and researchers alike, which maps the way English has been used over the past 1,000 years.

Also among the winners was the Institute of Cancer Research which has developed a drug for men with late stage prostate cancer and since 2005 has seen 10 drugs it has developed begin clinical trials.

Professor Marc Alexander, Glasgow University’s director of the thesaurus, said the project’s founder, Michael Samuels, was trying to overcome the shortfalls in dictionaries, where much of our knowledge of the language is based, which place words alphabetically and does not aid our understanding.

He added: “If you rearrange everything we know according to the meaning, so all the words for red are together or the words for love or death, you start to see the connections and the important thing is we dated each word.

“So it’s not just ‘here’s 50 words for love’ it’s ‘here’s 50 words and here’s the exact date we know that word meant love.”

One of the professor’s undergraduate researchers Kyle Gunn, who is studying English language, joked that he had been working on rude words which past researchers had tried to ignore.

He said: “I spent a lot of time looking at the sexual intercourse category and because of the way a lot of words are recorded you don’t find a lot of the dirty ones in the earlier sources.”

The student said they were omitted from early dictionaries as compilers did not want readers to know the words existed.

He added: “Having worked in the sexual intercourse category there are not many that I can repeat, but Bawcock from 1599 is a good one.

“It’s a lot less dirtier than it sounds. It’s a term of endearment in the way you would use darling.”

Charles is chancellor of the University of Wales while Camilla has the same role with Aberdeen University and they spent more than an hour chatting to the winning university and institutions during a palace reception.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to universities and colleges who submit work judged to show excellence, innovation, impact and benefit for the institution itself and for people and society generally in the wider world.

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