Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Change Comes to the O.E.D.

The venerable Oxford English Dictionary, usually referred to as the O.E.D., is working on its third edition.  The last edition was published in 1989, and the editors had hoped to bring out the third edition in 2005.  The current guesstimate is that the third edition will come out in 2037!  A new editor, Michael Proffitt, has taken the helm of the O.E.D., and he has a different vision of the revered dictionary; he sees it as less "the heavy volumes of yore," and more "as a trove of invaluable data."  The New York Times recently interviewed Mr. Proffitt, who was very upbeat about the future of dictionaries, declaring in the article that "their time has come ... [p]eople need filters much more than they did in the past."  Some of the changes that he is contemplating include links to O.E.D. entries from digitized literature; more use by students (although he doesn't state how he would accomplish that); licensing O.E.D. data to other companies; more aggressive pricing; and "less stuffy definitions" pulled from blogs, Twitter feeds, and other untraditional sources.  One of the most interesting parts of the article comes at the end when the author, Tom Rachman, lists some words in common use today that have actually been in use for some time.  Some examples are OMG (first used in 1917) and Unfriend (first used in 1659).  

No comments: