they were published, my pieces on James Murray and the Oxford English
Dictionary (Bikwil Issues
14, 1998 July & September and
1999 July) have elicited sundry positive observations from our readers and
restrained clamour for further articles on the OED.
let me discharge an undertaking I gave in the first
article, and add some more to the ongoing saga of the
OED in respect of its presentation in more
|1857: First ideas
for New English Dictionary at Philological
Society of London
1884-1928: NED Fascicles 1-128 published by
Oxford University Press
1928: Re-issue of NED (10 vols)
1933: Corrected re-issue (12 vols) as Oxford English
1933: Publication of Supplement (one vol)
1972-86: Replacement Supplement (four vols)
1984: Policies formulated regarding 2nd Ed.
1989: Publication of 2nd Ed. (20 Vols)
1991: Micrographic version of 2nd Ed. published (one
1992: 2nd Ed. published on CD-Rom
1993: Revision begun for 3rd Ed.
2010: Current estimated publication date of 3rd Ed.
talk a bit about the 1991 micrographic version.
to read without the supplied magnifying glass (and mighty troublesome with
it), the “compact” edition has had limited acceptance. Its main selling
point is its price advantage over the full-size 2nd Ed. I once had a squiz
at it in a shop, but quickly decided that I’d get a headache using it on a
Sydneysiders, however, have made it their bible. I have it on good
authority, for example, that not so long ago no less prominent a figure
than a certain Professor of English, now retired from a major Australian
university (well, in that capacity, anyhow), could often be observed
peering through the reading glass at a personal copy of the photo-reduced
assumes, with no adverse impact on the eyesight.
incidentally, according to the OED itself, is antipodean slang
deriving from quiz, “prob. blended with squint”. “Squint”,
yeah — oh, thrice accursed lens!
. . . but then . . . in 1992 OUP issued the work in an even more reduced
1984 plans were being laid for the Second Edition, a decision had been
taken that would have far-reaching implications for the OED, namely
that all material (including all entries of the First Edition) be keyed
benefits of computerisation of a dictionary as big as the OED, with
its 292 thousand entries, are obvious.
include more convenient entry compilation (and, more particularly,
revision), more flexible and simpler searching opportunities, not only for
spelling, pronunciation, meaning or etymology, but also for dated usage as
embodied in its two and a half million quotations — to say nothing of the
space saving offered by a slim disc weighing a few grams.
its initially prohibitive price, the CD-Rom version has from the start
been an incontestable success — so much so that the OED team today
still use some of the media praise of 1992 for advertising purposes.
Originally selling in 1989 for around $A2,000, it was out of reach of all
but libraries and a handful of dedicated language scholars.
then, however, a new, less academic, market has emerged, prompting a
decision in 1996 to cut the price in half. This has given the opportunity
for personal ownership to such diverse types as freelance journalists,
authors, translators, crossword fiends, and writers of magazine columns on
truth must out.
my own copy in 1997, when I found it on special in a Barnes and Noble mail
order catalogue. I upped my Mastercard limit, bit the bullet of
lexicographical indebtedness and haven’t regretted the expense one bit. I
use it every day for something, and my awe-struck admiration for James
Murray and his successors just grows and grows.
a few standard features of Windows and Macintosh software are missing from
current version, though for me this in no way detracts from its
usefulness. No need to fret, anyhow, for I understand that within a couple
of years a completely fresh edition will become available that will be
compatible with MS Office and have many other welcome new features.
few recent prices for the courageous dictionary explorers among you:
2nd ed., one photo-reduced vol. in slip case with
glass: $A595 (Dymocks)
OED 2nd ed., on CD-Rom (PC or Mac): $A950 (Dymocks)
OED 2nd ed., 20 vols: $US995 (retail price) — Oz price around $A3,000
in March 1999 A&R was selling it for less than $1,900
little doubt that prices will come down as the publication of the Third
Edition draws nearer.
of which, here’s a digest of what’s happening as OUP move towards OED3.
According to my latest information, the approved budget is £34m, while the
permanent staff comprises 42 editors plus 50 research assistants,
keyboarders, proofreaders, etc. As well, there are over 200 specialist
language consultants on call.
perhaps unexpected figure of £34m, incidentally, I should point out that
no edition of the OED has ever come in under its estimated budget.
Furthermore, OUP has never in its history made a profit from the
Dictionary. Given these unfavourable commercial circumstances (such being
the lot of so many University Presses), we must be profoundly grateful to
them for their continuing commitment.
addition to the preparation of entries for new words (an ongoing endeavour,
of course, for any team of lexicographers), current work chiefly consists
of revision of each and every word — the first full revision since 1928 —
to improve accuracy in definition, etymology, pronunciation, quotations,
etc. At last count, for example, more than one in four revised definitions
have been expanded substantially with data on earlier usage.
antedating, as it is called, is a vital part of the Oxford Dictionary
revision process. Likewise postdating and interdating. Hence the growing
Appeals Lists, which contain words or phrases (often colloquial) for which
only incomplete evidence so far exists, and for which the OED team
are seeking further documented instances.
diverting examples on recent Lists include:
cark it (pre-1977 evidence?)
grandkid (pre-1948 evidence?)
have a problem with = “object to” (pre-1989
have been, i.e. to the toilet, e.g. “Have you been?” (any evidence?)
off-switch (pre-1897 evidence?)
orphan in reference to things, not people (interdate
perfect timing (pre-1976?)
shitload (pre-1972 evidence?)
something for the weekend, i.e. a condom
also afoot to make future editions of the OED available on-line via
the Internet from March 2000. In this way users will have access to the
latest information on every word/meaning/usage as soon as it is added to
the database. No doubt this will incur a fee.
exhilarating,” you are asking, “but what we Bikwil readers want to
know is this: does having his own OED put Mr. Harlish Goop in
seventh heaven? Is a single concise CD-Rom superior to 20 handsomely bound
volumes? More to the point, has he paid it off yet?”
bearing in mind that I will love till I die the look of books on the
shelf, their feel in the hand, their smell, new or old, I have succumbed
to the temptation of answering the first question by reminding you of a
piece of dialogue near the very end of the 1973 movie The Sting.
recall that from the start Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) has warned Johnny
Hooker (Robert Redford) that no revenge for the murder of Hooker’s friend
by Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) is ever going to bring full satisfaction.
Nevertheless they and their con-game buddies go ahead with their elaborate
operation to make a bankrupt fool of Lonnegan, and they succeed.
evidence of the sting is being packed up and removed, Gondorff says to
Hooker, “You beat him”. To which, after a pause, Hooker replies,
right. It’s not enough . . . [smile] . . . it’s close.”