OED News Bits Ser.2 #7
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 98 00:40:30 -0800
Subject: OED News Bits Ser.2 #7
Excerpted-from: OED NEWS Series 2 No. 7 January 1998
August 1997 saw the publication of the third volume of the OED Additions
series. In this issue of the Newsletter Jennie Miell, one of the New Words
editors who handled publicity for the volume, describes the wide variety of
media attention it received, both in Britain and abroad.
While the public was concentrating on the OED's acknowledgement of the
entrance of 'ableism', 'Mills & Boon', and 'luvvy' into the dictionary,
behind the scenes the revision of the existing OED text continued apace.
The close scrutiny being given to its hundreds of thousands of quotations
has some interesting scholarly by-products. In the process of verifying
OED2 quotations from Charles Dickens's Sketches by 'Boz' M. Clare Loughlin
was able to trace, through minor changes in the text of eight different
editions from 1836 to 1850, Dickens's growing opposition to public
execution. The resulting article, 'Revisions to "A Visit to Newgate" and
Dickens's experience of the Mannings' Execution', appeared in The Dickensian
93 (Summer 1997).
Work on OED etymologies also continues to throw up interesting philological
issues. Professor Bernhard Diensberg of the University of Bayreuth, Germany,
who is acting as a consultant on Old French etymologies, describes some of
those arising from the consideration of English words with Old French
Editing on the OED is not always a serious business. Often our quotation
files and databases, or the OED itself, turn up quotations worth sharing.
Below are some Quotable Quotes on a variety of subjects, from glasshouses
Finally, this issue of the OED Newsletter sees a change of editor. Our
thanks go to Yvonne Warburton, who has done such an excellent job of editing
the Newsletter over the past three years.
Associate Editor, OED
Some thoughts from the OED and its files on...
...St John's place of abode....
a1400 Cursor Mundi 12706 Ion the wangelist..he liued in maiden-hede.
...unfulfilled social ambitions...
1658 Sir T. Browne Hydriotaphia 48 In vain we hope to be known by open and
...hordes of unruly licensed victuallers...
a.1656 J. Ussher Ann. World vi. (1658) 542 Thus Asia, which before was
plagued with the Publicans..begins to pirck up again.
...keeping a stiff upper lip...
1877 Knight's Dict. Mechanics s.v. Guillotine, There is an air of ferocity
about..punishment by beheading...Shooting is martial, and has one merit: it
enables a man to stand up and face the executioner.
...a woman's place...
1907 Daily Chron. 9 Sept. 5/7 May I point out that...the woman who laces
tightly shows a careful regard for her appearance...If more girls laced
tightly there would be fewer doing the daily jaunts to the City, as many
men of my acquaintance would gladly marry but want a graceful, neat-figured
1964 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 21 Dec., The policeman asked Godfrey Booth:
'Your occupation, sir?' Mr. Booth..replied 'Cag handed straw wimbler.'
1926 Chambers's Jrnl. Sept. 600/2 Maggot-farming is not yet, I believe, an
...and the dangers of swimming on holiday.
a.1995 Holiday Brochure (heading), Many villas have a pool with a car thrown
News from the OED Archives.
Pre-editors sorting through the backlog of material in the OED files (some
of which dates from the first edition) frequently come across letters worthy
of a place in the extensive OED Archive. Jenny McMorris, our archivist,
reports that recent finds include several letters from Kenneth Grahame in
his position as Secretary of the Bank of England, one from W. G. Grace on
the term 'popping crease', and another from Thomas Hardy on 'pook'. Both
the latter were written to James Murray on the same date, 21 January 1907,
in response to appeals for help. Hardy's words are quoted directly in the
OED definition - 'a thin tall stack of corn [etc.].'
Where do Modern English dash and squash come from?
Looking up the respective entries in the OED and Oxford Dictionary of
English Etymology (and in almost all other big dictionaries - including the
unabridged American ones), the user is told that dash goes back to, or is
at least related to, dialectal Danish daske, Swedish daska 'to beat, slap',
an etymology which cannot be allowed to stand because of formal, semantic,
and chronological grounds. More than 30 years ago, a German scholar, Helmut
Lu<umlaut>dtke, proposed a viable and convincing alternative: namely
Anglo-French dachier, which fits the English loan verb both in form and
For the verb squash, however, a Romance origin had been suggested, namely
Old French esquasser, which indeed fits the meaning but not the form of the
English verb. Dialects outside the Paris region (the so-called Ile de
France) had the variant esquachier which exactly yields the correct form.
In this case, consonantal alternations within Old French dialects, including
the medieval French spoken in England after 1066, the so-called
Anglo-French, had rarely been taken into account. Earlier scholars had
preferred to look for an etymology on the continent, thus neglecting the
rich Anglo-French heritage, but recent scholarship has shown that
consonantal, vocalic, and dialectal alternations found in Old French
dialects should be taken into account. Thus Modern English annoy reflects
the so-called weak form (i.e., the variants of the present indicative of
the French verb which were stressed on the ending) of Anglo-French anoier.
Modern French ennuyer owes its vocalism to the so-called strong forms (i.e.
those variants of the present indicative of the French verb which were
stressed on the root syllable). The English verbs catch (< Anglo-French
cachier) and chase (< Central French chasser) reflect a well-known example
of consonantal alternation in the source language. The noun prey continues
Anglo-French preie, as compared to Central French proie, while the adjective
coy shows the Central French vocalism oi, as compared to ei in Anglo-French
quei of the same meaning. The verbs coil (a rope) and moil (as found in toil
and moil) on the one hand and cull (select, mull over) on the other hand
reflect divergent developments within Anglo-French.
Such dialectal and morphonological alternations found in medieval French
borrowings will taken into account in the course of the revision of the OED
Bernhard Diensberg University of Bayreuth, Germany
Appeals List -------------
Since it is some years since we first published our Appeals List, a number
of readers have asked for a reminder in full of what it represents.
Words or phrases which appear on the Appeals List are those currently being
drafted or revised for which the documentary evidence is lacking in some
Often these are slang or colloquial items which cannot be researched in
specialist texts and are most likely to be turned up by a general reader in
popular or non-specialized literature.
Usually the appeal is for an earlier example than our current earliest
(e.g., 'pre-1970' for a word for which our earliest example is 1970), but
sometimes the appeal is for an interdating where there is a large gap in
the OED's quotation paragraph (e.g., 'interdate 1589-1910'). Occasionally
we ask for a postdating (e.g., 'post-1875'), if an editor feels that an item
being revised is still current but has failed to turn up recent examples
through the usual avenues of research.
Items on the Appeals List for words or phrases with multiple senses are
followed by a short definition specifying the sense sought (other senses of
the same word are usually already well documented in our files or on our
databases, and do not require further evidence).
asteroid field: antedate 1980
bachelor pad: antedate 1976
back-to-back, adv. phr. (of parallel testing of two or more comparable
items, esp. cars): antedate 1983
curvy, a. (of woman or woman's figure): antedate 1961
donor fatigue: antedate 1984
fell off (the back of) a lorry/truck: antedate 1973
the full monty: any evidence (esp. pre-1986)
full-on, adj. and adv. (all-out, unrestrained): pre-1985 evidence in
to give someone one (=sex): antedate 1984
joined-up writing/handwriting: antedate 1983
made up (Liverpool, = happy): any evidence
mouth almighty: any evidence
nul points: any evidence
politicking, vbl. n.: pre-1928
sulphate, v. intr. (to become sulphated): interdate 1898-1982
termiting, n. (the extraction of termites for food): any examples
tipitiwitchet, tippitiwitchet, etc. (US = Venus fly-trap): interdate 1763
to watch one's (or someone's) back: antedate 1974
For anyone wishing to contact us with queries or contributions, the address
of the Dictionary is:
The Oxford English Dictionary Oxford University Press Great Clarendon St.
Oxford OX2 6DP
telephone (01865) 556767 or 267660 fax (01865) 267810 email email@example.com
For those readers wishing to use the OED in electronic form, we now have
available two CD-ROM versions of the second edition, a Windows version and
a Macintosh version; the price has recently been reduced from <poundsign>495
to <poundsign>250 (+ VAT). For information please contact:
Janet Caldwell Customer Service Manager Electronic Publishing Oxford
University Press Great Clarendon St. Oxford OX2 6DP
telephone (01865) 267979 fax (01865) 267990
David Kastritsios Marketing Manager, Electronic Products Oxford University
Press, Inc., USA 198 Madison Avenue New York N.Y. 10016
telephone 212 726 6246 email firstname.lastname@example.org
The OED and its New Entries (Additions Series, Volume 3).
The announcement in June of the publication of the latest volume in the OED
Additions series resulted in a flurry of press interest in the OED.
Coverage in the UK included every major national newspaper, both broadsheet
and tabloid, as well as regional newspapers and local radio stations around
the nation. International interest came from France, Italy, Germany,
Canada, and Japan; and the book was featured on nationwide US television.
All of which resulted in a very busy (and exhausting) couple of weeks for
those of us involved in the publicity.
The aim of the Additions series is to publish work in progress on the
\fIOED\fR: to show our readers the type and range of modern terms that are
currently being considered for inclusion in OED3. That said, there are of
course a number of particularly 'media-friendly' words which are guaranteed
to catch the eye of journalists looking for a good headline, and Additions
3 proved to contain plenty of these. Particular favourites included
squeegee kid, happy-clappy, and luvvy. Many journalists--and not just those
from the more conservative broadsheets--were surprised that the OED includes
such slang terms and colloquialisms, and we were occasionally asked whether
this is a 'controversial' practice, and contributes to the 'decline' of the
English language. A reflection, no doubt, of the OED's perceived status
(as the Guardian put it) as the '"Bible" of English usage', and we were
happy to point out that our primary aim is one of description rather than
Another frequently recurring topic in media interviews was, naturally, the
process by which a particular word is considered for inclusion. The extent
of our primary research, covering hundreds of publications and electronic
databases from around the world, astonished many, and the fact that the
public are encouraged to send us evidence of new words was greeted with
interest. The numerous local newspapers and radio stations to which we gave
interviews were keen to hear examples of their particular regional dialects
that we had included, and their recognition of such words was a useful
reinforcement of our research, especially when, as is often the case,
written evidence of such terms is relatively scarce. The computing and
multimedia vocabulary that we had included incited a great deal of interest,
as did that relating to crime and other social issues. Another interesting
subject for discussion was the extent of the influence on British English
by other varieties of English, particularly U.S. and Black English, and
whether this reflected increasing 'globalization', particularly via the
electronic media. 'And finally,' we were often asked, 'Which is your
favourite word?' This is the question which I, for one, find the most
difficult to answer.
It was gratifying to be reminded by the media interest in the publication
of Additions 3 of people's fascination with language and dictionaries, and
to be able to explain some of the processes involved in the creation of new
entries for the OED.
Senior Assistant Editor (New Words)
© 1998 Peter Langston