Several generous users on ELU recommend the use of OED for etymology, but does the OED it truly helps? I'll exemplify the two kinds of problems that I faced; please feel free to moot any others.

Thanks to user 'tchrist' below, I now know about OED's Key to symbols and other conventions.

anticipate, v. Etymology: < anticipate adj., or on analogy of verbs so formed.
Compare French anticip-er ( < Latin) found in 14th cent.

† anˈticipate, adj.     
Etymology: < Latin anticipāt-us, past participle of anticipā-re, prop. antecipā-re, < ante before + -cipāre, deriv. < cap-ĕre (in compound -cip-ĕre) to take.

Problem 1: This only presents the facts, but no explanation or reasoning 'between the lines'. I admit that I'm unversed in linguistics or languages, but at least Etymonline does try.

again, adv., prep., and conj.

Etymology: Cognate with or formed similarly to Old Frisian a-jēn , Old Dutch angegin , angegen , anegeginne , Old Saxon angegin , Old High German angegini
< the Germanic base of on- prefix + a Germanic base either identical to or related to that of gain adj. (compare gain- prefix).

Problem 2: Now the entry's length complicates understanding. Problem 1 still rankles, especially for someone who doesn't even know the modern varieties of the old dialects cited (my question).

  • You’re comparing aardvarks with avarice. Kindly replace one or the other with a like thing, then roll again. – tchrist Mar 18 '15 at 0:02
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    Of course the OED doesn't offer any explanation or reasoning between the lines: because, as you've been told innumerable times, historical evidence and attestation provides facts, points of data, not reasons. In other words, the OED, the foremost historical dictionary of English in the world for over a century, heeds the Etymological Fallacy (as opposed to simply repeatedly stating it does). Of course it's possible to speculate on the why (as Etymonline does, while drawing most of its facts from the OED), but for an authority to actually do so would be misleading: POB ;) – Dan Bron Jul 7 '15 at 21:35
  • @DanBron 'heeds'? That makes no sense. How do you heed a fallacy? Do you push a feeling or squander a fact? One might be aware of or avoid a fallacy, but I still don't know what you intend. – Mitch Jul 7 '15 at 22:51
  • @Mitch You may be unfamiliar with the case history of this particular poster. Recommend you search for questions he's asked on the topic of etymology, or simply search the site for instances of I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but.... If it soothes your semantic itch, you may consider the usage an ellipsis: I heed [the advice commonly given w.r.t.] the Etymological Fallacy. Or accept heed with the sense of pay attention to. – Dan Bron Jul 7 '15 at 22:54
  • I am well aware of the history (I was taking you to task for flowing his usage rather than quoting it) but I never made the leap to filling in the ellipsis. It is soothing but more like picking a scab. – Mitch Jul 7 '15 at 23:29

You have to read the key! When they write:

† anˈticipate, adj. 

They are telling you that that sense is obsolete with the obelisk, and they are indicating that the word is stressed on the antepenultimate syllable.

You have to use the key.

  • 1
    Is there some reason for calling it the antepenultimate rather than the second syllable? – FumbleFingers Mar 18 '15 at 21:54
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    More fun that way. – phenry Mar 18 '15 at 23:00
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    @FumbleFingers Words with that suffix are always stressed on the antepenultimate syllable, but not always on the second. Not sure that's important here though ... – Araucaria Apr 3 '15 at 17:49
  • @FumbleFingers It's called that because, like with lots of language things, that's what it's called, especially Latinate derived words where stress rules are relevant to the ends of words, not beginnings. – Mitch Jul 7 '15 at 22:54
  • @Mitch: As Araucaria points out, Words with that suffix are always stressed thus. And although I don't know it for a fact, I'm more than prepared to believe that for a very large number of words (particularly, longer ones formed by chaining suffixes, etc.) it's simpler to classify stress patterns by counting backwards from the last syllable. So I suspect it was no "accident" on tchrist's part - even if it wasn't a conscious usage there (what do I know?), he's probably reflecting an established approach that works better than counting from the first syllable. – FumbleFingers Jul 8 '15 at 1:59
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    @FumbleFingers You always count stress from the end of the word, not from the front. That’s why sets of words with the same endings all can have the same stress despite having different syllable counts: classic, specific, economic, enthusiastic, electromagnetic, internationalistic are all stressed on the penult, while brevity, activity, specificity, admissibility, comprehensibility, biodegradability are all stressed on the antepenult. – tchrist Oct 7 '15 at 3:28

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