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Quarter III/2021: Set


Essay for Set

Photography & Uploading: July 1 – September 30, 2021

Welcome to the latest Worldwide Panorama event! Settle down in the back – are we all set? The theme for this WWP event has been settled, and it is – can you guess? – yes, “set.”

As a theme title and keyword, the word set is exceptionally flexible. It can mean to put down, or it can be the environment for a film or stage play, or it can describe a grouping of similar things, or be the process of changing from liquid to something more firm, to take a specific stance about something, or to set a date, set someone straight, set the table, or set something (or someone) up, set off or set out, set to music, set gems in jewellery...

Sometimes when there are so many nuanced different meanings it can be a bit difficult to pick one and, er, set off down a creative path. We hope this set of example meanings helps to set your mind at rest so you can get on with crafting your own creative take on the theme and add your contribution to the... yes, the set of panoramas for this particular event.

Is ‘set’ the word with the most definitions in the English language? Well... in the very first Oxford English Dictionary (which took a staggering 70 years to complete), ‘set’ filled a grand total of 32 pages and listed around 200 different meanings. At that time it had more definitions than any other word. Since then it has grown to well over 400 definitions – although it was eventually displaced from the top slot by the word ‘put,’ and even that is, er, set to be ousted in the next version of the OED by the word ‘run,’ with 645 meanings! The English language has around three-quarters of a million words and even so a fair number of those are working overtime!

So although ‘set’ is no longer the word with the most meanings it’s still rich with linguistic promise and inspiration, more than able to set the creative mind racing. Let’s set those other multi-definition words aside, make them the set we’re not using if you like, and see if we can set this challenge up; set you on the right road as it were. On your mark, get set...

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