Thursday, October 4, 2012

OED Appeals

Just found this in my blog roll. The OED has opened up a dedicated space on their website where they're asking the public to  help research the history of words.

As a friend told me once, and as the website confirms, this has always been the method of the OED.

The OED has been a collaboration between lexicographers and the public since its earliest days, from the appeal issued by the Philological Society in 1859, to the television programme “Balderdash & Piffle,” broadcast in 2005 and 2007. OED Appeals continues this tradition by using the reach of the web and social media to connect lexicographers with those who may hold hidden clues to word history without even realizing it.

For the word enthusiast, this sounds like great news. Readers here might think this would be right up my alley, but actually I'm not really a researcher of this ilk. I'm mostly concerned to dig into my own murkiness and misconceptions. But I know there are people out there who will have a field day with this kind of crowd sourcing idea. If that's you, what are you waiting for? Have at it!

*10/7/12 Amending this to say that I just took a look over there and realized I had something to contribute on the word "cootie". Take a look--you might remember something too.



  1. The original Wikipedia, who knew?

  2. Verily, there is nothing new under the sun.

  3. i kinda was aware of this a while back having read the very very funny 'reading the oed' by ammon shea...yea verily it is kinda cool but then again how impossible would it be to be the top editor at such an undertaking???
    some argue (wrongly) that the language will be taken over by the teeming masses and summarily stripped of its purity, which i say is hogwash..who better to research the lingua than those at the coalface?
    apparently in the early days they used a card indexing system which pre computers would have been crazytown...imagine some knucklehead leaving the door open on a particularly windy day? 'noooo....youve messed up zap to zebu!!!!'
    on a final rant it appears that the oed v 3 i think is not going to be printed as such and will remain an online source, which is kinda sad...selfish yeah but i love the heftiness of those big ole they make for great doorstops

  4. I may have to read that "Reading the OED", Dan.

    Yes, Robert McNeil with his whole Story of English PBS show persuaded me a long while ago that English remains vital because of all these borrowings and metaphorical uses and drifts, and writing up this blog has certainly drummed it in!

    A couple of my friends converted a small ciat closet into a glass fronted library, inspired mainly by the need to have somewhere they could show off their OED!

    I think the haste to make reference works exclusively an online option is ill considered. Although it does remind me of an amusing anecdote I just read this morning in a book by Texas journalist Molly Ivins, who recounted the story of a Texas representative, who was speaking in favor of an amendment that required all state revenues to go into the state treasury.

    "It just makes sense to put all your eggs in one basket," he said.

    1. you have nailed it there when you speak of the vitality of the language and funnily enough i have listened to mcneils podcast...brilliant stuff..
      dictionaries are my fodder as such and both the the OED and recently the ODE are my main course and you are right, the haste to put it all online is not the best consideration...some of us do like to find other words accidently when searching for the main prize

    2. I didn't know that MacNeil's work was available as a podcast--I'll have to check that out in free moment. I'm not familiar with the ODE. Care to elaborate?