OED crowdsourcing redux

The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary want your help in tracing the history of particular English words and phrases.

What’s old is new again. In 1859, the British Philological Society launched an appeal to the British and American public “to assist in collecting the raw materials for the work, these materials consisting of quotations illustrating the use of English words by all writers of all ages and in all senses, each quotation being made on a uniform plan on a half-sheet of notepaper, that they might in due course be arranged and classified alphabetically and by meanings.” The society’s goal was to create a new dictionary “worthy of the English Language and of the present state of Philological Science.” (The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Simon Winchester, 1998)

The result, after 50 years of toil and tens of thousands of quotation slips? The Oxford English Dictionary.

The philologists and lexicographers are at it again. In October 2012, the OED launched “a major online initiative that involves the public in tracing the history of English words.” This time, however, the public is being asked to submit contributions electronically, to OED appeals, rather than on half-sheets of notepaper.

Currently, the OED is looking for help with tracing the history of the following words:

Watch the video of OED’s appeal for contributions to FAQ.

Video © Oxford English Dictionary.

Photo, “Yellow Umbrella,” by solidether. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).


Macmillan stops presses

Have you heard? Starting next year, Macmillan’s range of dictionaries will only be available online, following a digital-only trend established by the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

In “Stop the presses—the end of the printed dictionary,” editor-in-chief Michael Rundell writes: “the digital medium is the best platform for a dictionary. One of its advantages is that we can now provide all kinds of supplementary resources—like this blog. The blog covers a huge range of issues, from language change and words in the news, via innovations in language technology or unexpected shifts in grammar, to ideas for teaching English and guidance on common errors.” Rundell also counts audio pronunciations and always being up to date as benefits of going digital.

Read the complete post, or watch the video that appears at the bottom of this page, along with its associated comments (preview: some people aren’t happy).

So. Macmillan’s range of dictionaries are going exclusively digital; Encyclopædia Britannica has gone exclusively digital; the Canadian Oxford Dictionary has gone exclusively digital. Could the venerable Oxford English Dictionary—still available in print—be far behind?

© Macmillan.