Talk:Oxford English Dictionary

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Current status: Former featured article candidate

How do you say OED?[edit]

Is it O.E.D. or ode? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:07, 24 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have only ever heard O.E.D. (letters pronounced separately). By the way, in the future for questions like this you can turn to the Wikipedia:Reference desk. Lesgles (talk) 08:22, 30 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'd beg to differ. I am quite certain it is pronounced "oh-ee-dee". Furthermore, questions regarding the subject of an article, such as the above, should be asked in discussion pages as it allows the editors to gauge what is missing in the article and amend it: for every question asked one can be sure there where umpteen times that number in people wondering the same and not asking. --Squidonius (talk) 21:01, 19 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You're not begging to differ, you're giving the exact same answer. (talk) 04:54, 8 January 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

cd screenshot[edit]

new screenshot added of cd v4.0 win7 added --Umar1996 (talk) 12:59, 17 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Since this article is about the Oxford English Dictionary itself, shouldn't it use OED spelling? Bob A (talk) 17:38, 19 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What did you have in mind? There's an OUP spelling style, but not a specifically OED spelling (it records all spellings, in general). quota (talk) 08:59, 23 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The appropriate style is the one in use throughout wiki if there is one. If there is not a style, then that is the style that should be used. It is not correct in English to adapt to local styles so for instance we say Paris, not Pahree. If you look at the OED entry for France, it is unlikely it is written in French, so even their style takes that approach.

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English[edit]

Also called the "Pocket Oxford Dictionary" is not on this page. Why is this? Snowman (talk) 08:53, 8 February 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Agreed. From the OUP site there is also: the Compact Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus; the Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus; the Little Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus; the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus; the Oxford Dictionary of English; the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary; and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Deluxe Edition. It would be great if someone could classify all these into some intelligible taxonomy and add it to the article. Oxford University Press seem unwilling/incapable of doing it. (talk) 13:05, 16 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have had occasion to consult at least one of those pocket editions and found it to be pretty awful. There's a similar problem with the Merriam-Webster: unabridged (excellent), collegiate (excellent), high-school edition (awful). If we could just find a tactful and diplomatic way of saying that. Zyxwv99 (talk) 14:31, 16 December 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am surprised to note that we do not have edition of Oxford Dictionary that can open in Linux. Linux versions are growing in use and so some dictionary should be available. Pathare Prabhu (talk) 06:55, 11 September 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

close paraphrasing[edit]

Two paragraphs of the wikipedia article are very close paraphrases of the article on the OED in the Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Here are the two paragraphs:

Furnivall understood the need for an efficient excerpting system, and instituted several prefatory projects. In 1864, he founded the Early English Text Society, and in 1868, he founded the Chaucer Society for preparing general benefit editions of immediate value to the dictionary project. The compilation lasted 21 years.[citation needed]
Despite the participation of some 800 volunteer readers, the technology of paper-and-ink was the major drawback regarding the arbitrary choices of relatively untrained volunteers about "what to read and select" and "what to discard."[cite this quote][clarification needed]

And here is the relevant text from the Companion:

On his premature death in 1861 at 31, the editorship passed to Furnivall, who realized that an efficient system of excerpting was needed. This meant that for the earlier centuries printed texts had to be prepared of manuscripts not hitherto easily available; he therefore founded in 1864 the Early English Text Society and in 1865 the Chaucer Society, preparing editions of texts of general benefit as well as immediate value to the project. None of this work, however, led to compilation; it was entirely preparatory and lasted for 21 years. There were in the end some 800 voluntary readers. Their enthusiasm was enormous, but in a process which depended on paper and pen alone a major drawback was the often arbitrary choices made by the relatively untrained volunteers regarding what to read and select, what to discard, and how much detail to provide.

I am going to rewrite these two paragraphs both for clarity and to properly cite the source. GabrielF (talk) 17:10, 15 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Definitions or Descriptions?[edit]

@Quota: I don't know what your source is for saying that the OED "doesn't define meanings." The back of my Concise OED (2002) says, "This world-famous dictionary provides a comprehensive description of the English language..."; of course I can't dispute the fact that the OED 'describes' the words it 'defines', but it does also define. Forgive me for quibbling. Throughout the introduction to that dictionary, the authors refer to the entries as 'definitions.' (To delve into nerdiness, it is not clear whether an individual definition refers to the entire entry for a word or just one of the numbered components thereof, which the introduction refers to interchangeably as 'meanings', 'senses', etc. If there are 600,000 entries, there may be 600,000 definitions or there may only be definitions for 600,000 words.) Tdimhcs (talk) 17:55, 3 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

(Sorry about the delay in replying.) You may be confusing the Concise OED with the OED. The former is indeed a 'prescriptive' dictionary (which attempts to offer definitions and decscribe 'correct' usage, etc.). The latter simply documents words, describes their common meanings, and illustrates their usage (whether 'correct' or not). Hope that helps. quota (talk) 13:21, 19 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I expanded the template, Template:Dictionaries of English, and added it to this article, and a few others. Does this seem useful? should i add pub dates? is it correct in its categorizing?Mercurywoodrose (talk) 06:12, 31 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It is humorus that reference is made to several foreign dictionaries as preceding the OED, but not Webster's dictionary which was the standard for comprehensive English language dictionaries for much of the 19th century (in both America and England). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:30, 7 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This doesn't seem substantiated by the entries here according to which there were several English dictionaries that preceded the Oxford project and Webster's was a dictionary of American English and a work of an entirely different order. LookingGlass (talk) 13:13, 16 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

File:OED2-CD-1.png Nominated for speedy Deletion[edit]


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Correction to Criticisms Section[edit]

This message is being posted on behalf of Oxford University Press by whom I am employed. I am asking the Wikipedia community for help with this issue as I am mindful of not violating Wikipedia’s COI guidelines.

There is a factual mistake under the ‘Criticisms’ section of this article where it states ‘The iOS version of the OED has used Twitter account access to falsely accuse legitimate users of pirating the software.’ There is not and has never been an OED app. This statement relates to a temporary problem experienced by some users of a third party app that used non-OED dictionary data licensed from OUP. The article which this statement references is also incorrect in referring to the OED and the original author has been notified.

We get regular customer queries about the availability of an OED app and we do not wish to create any confusion over what products we have available so please could this statement be removed from the OED article? All help is greatly appreciated

Regards, Stephen — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:01, 22 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Online version(s)?[edit]

Hello! What is the difference between and Thanks! BigSteve (talk) 11:07, 23 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


From the article: "Burchfield also broadened the scope to include developments of the language in English-speaking regions beyond the United Kingdom, including North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean." This recent Guardian article would seem to call that into question. - Jmabel | Talk 00:51, 27 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Added a brief mention to this article and the piece on Burchfield. A check for other potential sources on this issue reveals that, so far, they are largely derived from the Guardian article. Philip Cross (talk) 11:25, 27 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Am I just reading too much into it, or does the term "self-styled" seem rather loaded when used the way it is in the opening paragraph? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:25, 4 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You are too kind, it is snarky in tone. If a criticism needs to be made, it should be in the section provided for that. It is probably an accurate statement, but it is not balanced in tone with the rest of wiki entries where this could be said. Worse for the reputation of wikipedia is that in some regard they are in competition with the OED, and as such this kind of comment looks self-absorbed, and brings discredit on wiki. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:05, 29 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This phrasing "...the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language" is insulting. The OED is generally regarded as the premier dictionary of the English language by anyone qualified to express an opinion. Arcanicus (talk) 08:48, 25 March 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Right, I've been bold and tried to sort this one out. "Self-styled" is innaccurate and insulting and I have removed it. However " THE premier" is debatable, particularly in the USA where Webster's is preferred. I have therefore changed it to ""the premier British dictionary" which I hope is in line with concensus. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 11:34, 25 March 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

OED as a physicists' source research[edit]

Physicists Explore The Rise And Fall Of Words. Apparently, some physicists used the OED as a great example of analyzing words. I think some links to an academic paper about this would improve this article. Komitsuki (talk) 18:13, 25 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

OED2 template[edit]

Is there a template specifically for the second edition? I use a copy of it and don't want citations to incorrectly show OED3. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 17:40, 25 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've just created {{OED1}} and {{OED2}} for this express purpose. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 21:28, 24 June 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

New editor[edit]

According to John Simpson will soon retire as editor, being replaced (effective 1 November 2013) by Michael Proffitt. Mitch Ames (talk) 10:47, 15 October 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Done; article needed though. Johnbod (talk) 11:32, 15 October 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I have reverted the unwanted and untruthful edit of editor User:Dougweller regarding the nature of the dictionary. The current online edition states the following: "As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings." [1] Kind regards to all lovers of truth. (talk) 23:29, 29 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Love it. "I disagree with you so you are a liar". Dougweller (talk) 06:57, 30 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That is not, as the brief online text from which you drew your quote makes clear, the sole purpose of the OED, nor is "descriptive" an antonym of "historic" - see Dictionary#Prescriptive vs. descriptive. Do you have a source for the progress of the new edition? If so, we could introduce that into the body with a citation and then update the lead; our Manual of Style gives sound guidance on that at WP:LEADCITE. In general, the lead section should summarise and be supported by material in the body of the article.
One thing does puzzle me; which edit did you revert? The only recent edits by Dougweller that I can see are those made after yours. NebY (talk) 09:50, 30 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]
An edit I made in May.[2] which modified this[3] edit by the IP. Dougweller (talk) 11:12, 30 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh! Thanks, I couldn't see why the IP made all those changes but it's clearer now: they just disregarded the later work of other editors. NebY (talk) 12:07, 30 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Copyright status[edit]

It is very strange that the article has nothing to say about the copyright status of older editions of this essential reference work of the English language. (Is there any free online searchable access to text of older editions?)- (talk) 15:11, 10 November 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Afaik, no. Since the majority of the text is unchanged since the 1st edn, OUP would probably not favour that, though it must be out of copyright. If you are in the UK you should be able to get online access at home via your library. Johnbod (talk) 14:03, 20 March 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

American contributors[edit]

It might (or might not) be worthy of note that the two most prolific contribbutors to the first edition were both Americans: Fitzedward Hall and W. C. Minor. (talk) 06:20, 20 March 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Criticism section should be more general[edit]

The "Criticism" section should be expanded to describe more generally the impact, influence, and overall reception of the OED. (talk) 05:55, 1 June 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Which ENGVAR is this article written in?[edit]

Anyone have a problem with me adding Template:British English Oxford spelling to the top of this page? It seems that of all articles on English Wikipedia, this is the one that should most be written under these spelling guidelines. Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:02, 18 January 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Indeed - go ahead! Johnbod (talk) 15:21, 18 January 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Dudes OED is not only a dictionary. It's also oral epithelial dysplasia Office of Executive Director Office expiration date Online Event Display operational effectiveness demonstration optical emission detector / optical emission detection (related to optical emission spectroscopy) Optimal experiment design

And probably a good number of other. Do it, it's not my job. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:37, 17 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

... and yet it apparently is your job to search out expansions of initialisms in order to highlight perceived weaknesses in an online encyclopedia. However, as not one of those terms is (currently) the title of an article in Wikipedia, the issue doesn't arise, and disambiguation is unnecessary. Dude. GrindtXX (talk) 12:18, 17 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

External links modified[edit]

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question about Countdown[edit]

As I read it, the section on Countdown suggests that the show started giving the 20 volume 2nd edition away as a prize seven years before it was published. (talk) 04:59, 8 January 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Surely the claim to be descriptivist is too controversial to be included without comment in the first sentence. Later in the article we see that Oxford University linguist Roy Harris criticised the OED for its prescriptivism. Of course, the OED's editors today are probably descriptivists, just as they say they are. But parts of the OED haven't been fully updated since the 19th century. A modern dictionary - and any descriptivist - will tell you that "in the ascendant" means "rising in power or influence" (ODO). The OED (latest online version) will tell you that this usage of the expression is "erroneous", since "in the ascendant" is supposed to mean "supreme". The OED is in fact full of references to "erroneous" and "incorrect" usages. Similarly, for example, if you look up "each", the usage of the plural verb after the pronoun (as in "Each of these verses have five feet") is described as "incorrect" (OED online, latest). You can agree or disagree with that judgement, but there's nothing descriptivist about it. (talk) 13:46, 9 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Most entries in the OED haven't been updated at all since the 19th century, and very few "fully". Most changes since the original edition have been additions, and a full review and rewrite process only began in the last few years (starting in the middle of the alphabet); it will take decades to complete at the current rate. Johnbod (talk) 15:03, 9 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Exactly. That just reinforces my point. To describe it as "a descriptivist dictionary", as Wikipedia does currently, is misleading. The descriptivist nature (or not) of the dictionary must be judged by its current contents, not by its current editorial policy. Besides which, even if "descriptivist" were an accurate description of the current contents, which it isn't, calling the dictionary "descriptivist" would ignore its history, and the article should be about all editions of the OED, not just the most recent. (talk) 15:59, 9 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

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Voluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuminous volumes[edit]

With a little twinge of regret, I am about to fix an error introduced by some IP almost a decade ago.

On 12 March 2008, the IP changed "four volumes of some 6,400 pages" to "four, 6,400-page volumes". As I write, this remains "four 6,400-page volumes".

This is pre-computing. It's about codices. Codices each having six thousand four hundred pages. Yeah, right.

I can only infer that in the intervening decade, the readers of this part of the article (and these have included me) have been extraordinarily -- uh, well, I listed some uncomplimentary adjectives here, but some people have thin skins, so perhaps not.

Incidentally, I neither have access to the cited source, nor time now to look through the article for similar horse droppings. -- Hoary (talk) 05:37, 13 February 2018; bowdlerized and augmented 05:44, 13 February 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Incorrect definition[edit]

After "Ian Paterson (2003). A Dictionary of Colour (1st paperback ed.), London: Thorogood (published 2004), p. 73"

buff is a pale yellowish-brown colour; a light yellow; of the colour of buff leather which having regard to its proximity to human skin colour gave rise to the phrase ‘in the buff’ meaning ‘naked’. Also ‘buff-coloured’.

After "Oxford English Dictionary (OED)"

buff - Of the colour of buff leather; a light brownish yellow.

--Danvasilis (talk) 23:08, 3 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm not sure what edit you are proposing. Looking at the online OED there are two origins of "buff" – one from Old French meaning a blow (hence buffet, buffer and blind-man's-buff), the other from the French "buffle", a buffalo. From the latter meaning (first shown in "buff n2") section I refers to the animal and section II the leather. That section gives three uses: clothing, naked and a polishing wheel. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 08:28, 4 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think Danvasilis isn't challenging the OED's etymologies, but its definition: the slight variation between "a light brownish yellow" and "a pale yellowish-brown colour". However, in my opinion those mean pretty much the same thing – or at least, any distinction is so minimal as to be meaningless. Even if the difference were more clear cut, we would have no reason to mention it in the article unless there was an explicit assertion in a reliable secondary source that the OED had got it wrong. GrindtXX (talk) 11:46, 4 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

1933 Issue of 1st Edition[edit]

As part of the process of putting together a model citation for the 1933 issue of the 1st Edition I have located the following files. Do they merit inclusion in the article? There is already a table for the 1888-1933 issue of the edition on the page. If it is worthwhile adding, should all the content of the table below be added, or only some columns?

Feedback please, Skullcinema (talk) 11:33, 22 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Vol. Letters URL Letter page ranges
1 A-B A 1-603/B 604-1240
2 C C 1-1308
3 D-E D 1-740/E 1-488
4 F-G F 1-628/G 1-532
5 H-K H 1-516/I 1-580/J 581-646/K 647-758
6 L-M L 1-528/M 1-820
7 N-Poy N 1-277/O 1-356/P-Poy 357-1216
8 Poy-Ry Poy-Py 1217-1676/Q 1-80/R-Ry 81-936
9 S-Soldo S-Sh 1-800/Si-Soldo 1-386
10 Sole-Sz Sole-St 387-1211/Su-Sz 1-396
11 T-U T-Th 1-404/Ti-Tz 1-565/U 1-493
12 V-Z V 1-332/W-We 1-334/Wh-Wy 1-400/X 1-7/Y 8-83/Z 84-105
Supplement A-Z A-K 1-542/L-Z 1-325
That looks most worthwhile. But I'm surprised to see it there. I hadn't realized that it was in the public domain, and it's not obvious that not being in the public domain would, in practice, stop anyone from uploading it. (After all, we read "Anyone with a free account can upload media to the Internet Archive.") Where is its presence advertised? (How did you know where to find it?) -- Hoary (talk) 13:03, 22 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The source appears to be within the Indian public libraries system; if you follow any of the links, the information for each of the volumes is included. I couldn't find anything authoritative on the copyright status of the 1st edition of the OED out there (ie definitively stating that it _was_ out of copyright). But as the OED has no authors, only editors and a publisher, I have taken the view that (in the UK at least) the copyright should have expired in 2003 for this issue. Note that the current page already links to content published in 1933 (Supplement) so it is an extension of that policy. I am happy to go with whatever is common policy for the page or across Wikipedia (it's one of the reasons I posted here rather than direct to the article). As for how I found it, it just required a bit of ferreting around in the Internet Archive in order to stitch together a full set of volumes. Skullcinema (talk) 14:47, 22 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Go ahead and include it. But I think it could be a bit neater. I'd link the volume number, so for example not
| 1|| A-B || || A 1-603/B 604-1240
but instead
| [ 1] || A-B || A 1-603/B 604-1240
and there could be better alternatives. -- Hoary (talk) 07:44, 23 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK, I'll give it a week from the 22nd for any other comments to come in and then do so. Skullcinema (talk) 10:58, 25 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You mentioned "putting together a model citation". Have you seen {{Cite OED1}} and the closely related {{Cite OED2}}? Martin of Sheffield (talk) 15:45, 22 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I hadn't, thank you for pointing them out. I'll take a look at them and make any comments on their respective talk pages if necessary. Skullcinema (talk) 10:58, 25 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Contested deletion[edit]

This page should not be speedily deleted because... (your reason here) --2607:F2C0:E7A2:2C:1E:3CA:63E3:7894 (talk) 23:22, 1 February 2020 (UTC) it is reference material.Reply[reply]

Don't worry; it won't be. -- Hoary (talk) 23:29, 1 February 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

citation/cite book[edit]

@Martin of Sheffield: "citation" gives Ogilvie, Sarah (2013), Words of the World: a global history of the Oxford English Dictionary (hardcover), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1107605695 Harv warning: There is no link pointing to this citation. The anchor is named CITEREFOgilvie2013. Regards Keith-264 (talk) 21:22, 22 March 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The only reason you see that message is because you have importScript('User:Ucucha/HarvErrors.js'); in your common.js. What you should have done is add |ref=none to the citations to turn off the linkage. Give me a couple of minutes and I'll do it for you. Regards, Martin of Sheffield (talk) 22:22, 22 March 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Solecisms and logical problems in the "Historical Nature" section[edit]

The first paragraph of the "Historical Nature" section begins:

As a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary explains words by showing their development rather than merely their present-day usages. Therefore, it shows definitions in the order that the sense of the word began being used, including word meanings which are no longer used.

"In the order that the sense of the word began being used" is awkward because no order is identified within which one single sense of a word can have begun to be used. The implied personification of "the OED explains" is inaccurate, particularly because a dictionary does not "explain" words, and neither does a dictionary "show" definitions. "Rather than merely their" is not English idiom. I suggest:

As a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary features entries in which the earliest ascertainable recorded sense of a word, whether current or obsolete, is presented first, and each additional sense is presented in historical order according to the date of its earliest ascertainable recorded use.

The next two sentences run:

Each definition is shown with numerous short usage quotations; in each case, the first quotation shows the first recorded instance of the word that the editors are aware of and, in the case of words and senses no longer in current usage, the last quotation is the last known recorded usage. This allows the reader to get an approximate sense of the time period in which a particular word has been in use and additional quotations help the reader to ascertain information about how the word is used in context, beyond any explanation that the dictionary editors can provide.

A definition is not just "shown with" quotations—it is illustrated by them. The first quotation does not present the "first recorded instance of the word," for that means the first time that the word was recorded in any sense whatever. Instead, it presents the earliest recorded usage of the word in the particular sense already defined. "That the editors are aware of" is wordy; wordy also is the general discussion of the temporal indications. The expression "additional quotations" implies that the first quotations given contain information about the historical span of usage, and the additional ones info about the usage in context, but this is logically incoherent—it is not possible to quote a sentence in which a word is used and not "give information" about its use in context. Indeed, if a quotation "gives information" about usage "beyond" the explanation of the word in that sense by the entry's author, then the author has not defined the particular sense of the word, since in defining a word one necessarily identifies the conceptual limits within which is captured every conceptual element that is part of this sense and from which nothing that is part of this sense has been omitted. Use of the verb "to ascertain" is also unfortunate, for it means to establish with certainty after performance of whatever cognitive labors the original situation of cognitive uncertainty made necessary. So, again, if a reader needed quotations "to ascertain" the use of a word in context, the lexicographer would not actually have defined the word in that particular sense. The passage might run:

Following each definition are several brief illustrating quotations presented in chronological order from that earliest ascertainable use of the word in that sense to the last ascertainable use for an obsolete sense, to indicate both its life span and the time since its desuetude, or to a relatively recent use for current ones.

This captures all the information the author or authors of the original two sentences wished to convey: (i) the fact that quotations follow the definition; (ii) the general illustrative function of the quotations; (iii) the lexicographical warrant for the choice of quotations in the two terminal historical positions; and (iv) the function of the presentation of the quotations in their historical span. Wordwright (talk) 23:11, 10 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wordwright, I can disagree with some of what you say. (For example, "a dictionary does not 'explain' words": Call this a personification if you wish, but constructions such as this are widely used, are easily understood, and -- at least in the context of books rather than of "artificial intelligence" -- are unlikely to be misunderstood.) But I agree with most. So I'd say: Go ahead; "be bold". -- Hoary (talk) 23:24, 10 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hoary Thanks for your observations! I'll give it a go. By the way, why is my signature in red, and yours in blue? It seems that blue is the norm, but all I do to sign is to click the button after "Sign your posts on talk pages." Wordwright (talk) 15:41, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Wordwright: It's in red because it is a link to a non-existent page. If you create you user page the link will go blue. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 16:10, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Martin of Sheffield: Thanks! I'll change that. Now, I'm sorry, but your response has prompted another question: I see that your response begins with opening double archer's bow brackets, then has "ping," then a straight slash, then my name, and then closes with closing double archer's bow brackets; is that why I got an alert? I've had exchanges on the talk page before, and either others have used it and I've never noticed it, or there are other ways to get some sort of notice of a reply—Hoary didn't use it, but somehow I was made aware that he had responded. So what's the deal? Wordwright (talk) 18:54, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
{{ping}} specifically tells the system to alert the target user. Just mentioning someone may also let them know that they were mentioned. I like your phrase "archer's bow brackets", I've not heard braces called that before. Most people these days seem to call parentheses, brackets and braces just "brackets", and then have to qualify them as "round", "square" and "curly". Don't they teach the correct names anymore? Martin of Sheffield (talk) 19:07, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Martin of Sheffield: Thanks again for the explanation. I'm glad you like the phrase, but the truth is that I'm getting old, and sometimes a name will hover at the edge of my mind, but no effort of mine to bring it front and center succeeds, and eventually it pops forth when I'd forgotten I had tried; at other times I can't even get it to hover—I couldn't get the name "brace" even to hover, so I just made something up. Since you ask about teaching correct names, you must be near my age—and I, too, wonder what teachers are teaching when they teach English. A few year ago a friend of mine said that teachers today are quite well trained in getting a point across, they just don't know what the real point is. Wordwright (talk) 18:50, 18 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Problems in the section "Early Editors"[edit]

Consider these two paragraphs from the section "Early Editors":

Thereupon Furnivall became editor; he was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but temperamentally ill-suited for the work. Many volunteer readers eventually lost interest in the project, as Furnivall failed to keep them motivated. Furthermore, many of the slips were misplaced.
Furnivall believed that, since many printed texts from earlier centuries were not readily available, it would be impossible for volunteers to efficiently locate the quotations that the dictionary needed. As a result, he founded the Early English Text Society in 1864 and the Chaucer Society in 1868 to publish old manuscripts. Furnivall's preparatory efforts lasted 21 years and provided numerous texts for the use and enjoyment of the general public, as well as crucial sources for lexicographers, but they did not actually involve compiling a dictionary. Furnivall recruited more than 800 volunteers to read these texts and record quotations. While enthusiastic, the volunteers were not well trained and often made inconsistent and arbitrary selections. Ultimately, Furnivall handed over nearly two tons of quotation slips and other materials to his successor.

In the first paragraph we are told of three of Furnival's failings: he had the wrong temperament; he failed to keep volunteers motivated; many slips—things mentioned without identification—were misplaced. In the second paragraph, we are told that he spent twenty-one years in preparatory efforts, that he founded a scholarly society, and that he recruited 800 volunteers—statements that hardly comport with the clam about his temperament; the earlier claim that volunteers weren't motivated is contradicted by the claim that they were enthusiastic but not competent; and if Furnivall handed two freaking tons of slips to his successor, it's hard to take seriously the vague statement that "many" slips were misplaced.

Since it was the two societies who published texts, the publications were not part of Furnivall's efforts; what he spent twenty-one years doing is not specified, but I imagine that he spent a lot of time ordering and reviewing the slips that his 800 volunteers submitted to him. We are not told against what framework of criteria he or someone else evaluated the pertinence and historical status of quotations so that we can understand with what a selection was inconsistent and in defiance of what rule one as arbitrary, but we cannot know that the volunteers made inconsistent and arbitrary selections unless Furnivall engaged in some critical, rectificatory consultations with his volunteers, or noticed that some volunteers' selections were judicious or had other virtues, etc. Similarly, we cannot know that slips were misplaced unless Furnivall kept a record of the receipt of slips from which volunteers recorded with what information so that, at some succeeding stage of critical review, he (or an assistant) could tell that slips whose receipt was recorded had gone missing—whereupon he would have requested replacement quotations.

Hence it is not relevant that his efforts did not constitute the activity of compiling the dictionary—in order actually to begin compiling the dictionary, you must first have gathered the material evidence necessary to determine just how many senses a word has, then one must subject the quotations and the senses to the various critical procedures necessary for the purposes of a historical dictionary. It seems to me that Furnivall acquitted himself well in the truly heroic undertaking of maintaining the general integrity of the work and labor placed in the scattered rights hands of 400 volunteers who did not know what the scattered left hands of another 400 volunteers were doing; all the more heroic because, over the course of those years, doubtless, he himself was engaged in a course of trial, error, and rectification in working out some of the magisterial critical principles necessary for happy regulation and consummation of the project.

I submit this revision for review:

Thereupon the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Furnivall became editor. Furnivall realized that, because many printed texts from earlier centuries were not readily available, and because a good deal of lexical evidence resided in a trove of unpublished manuscripts, his volunteers lacked the material wherewith to meet the requirement that some of the illustrative quotations represent the earliest ascertainable use of a word in a specific sense. Thus in 1864 and 1868 Furnivall founded, respectively, the Early English Text Society and the Chaucer Society to publish old manuscripts. Over the course of twenty-one years the two societies published numerous texts both for the enjoyment of the general public and as sources for lexicographers, and during that time, Furnivall recruited 800 volunteers to read these materials and record quotations on paper slips. Although enthusiastic, these readers were not well trained, and often made inconsistent and arbitrary selections or misplaced slips. They were nothing if not prolific, however, for eventually Furnivall handed nearly two tons of quotation slips and other materials to his successor.

This version has the advantage of proper topical development and logical consistency, but I think it would be much stronger if a concrete account of the actual editorial work that Furnivall did were included. I will try to find the time to do the proper research, but perhaps others have already done research that they can draw upon for the improvements. Wordwright (talk) 18:29, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As the infreqency of my recent contributions to Wikipedia may suggest, I'm distracted by pressing matters elsewhere (only indirectly the pestilence, as it happens). So only a brief comment for now (and one that will avoid the important matters). "Thereupon" and "nothing if not [adjective]" hardly fit the register of English used in articles, and "wherewith" is I think a museum piece. While this isn't the Simple English Wikipedia (which "is a thing"), we do try to avoid excesses. ¶ But please don't let this minor comment deter you from continuing to apply your critical intelligence to this inadequate article. -- Hoary (talk) 23:06, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry to disagree with you Hoary, but both "thereupon" and "nothing if not ..." feature in both common speech and written English. I would agree that the bare "wherewith" is (in my experience) uncommon, except in combinations such as "wherewithal". A lot though depends upon age and locality, and in particular those who have learnt English as a second language. It is an irony that the latter often have a better command of formal English than many native speakers. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 09:26, 12 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Martin of Sheffield, yes, "thereupon" and "nothing if not [Adj]" are indeed commonplace. This doesn't mean that they're the most appropriate choices for the text of WP articles. BTW, I claim no expertise in formal English. -- Hoary (talk) 10:40, 12 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Martin of Sheffield Hoary I also agree that "wherewith" is musty, and that "with which" would be more appropriate. I will also concede that "Upon Coleridge's death" would be less stuffy than "thereupon," which came to mind only because my argument against "thence" required me to identify the adverb with the proper semantic sense—I wasn't thinking about style. As for "nothing if not," it really is appropriate—with the expression you concede that a thing whose shortcomings you've just done itemizing does have a virtue, and it usually conveys a slight sense of amusement or surprise, so in this instance, after the list of the volunteers' weaknesses and the mention of the misplaced slips, the last thing you'd expect to be true of those seeming no-account volunteers is that they should have produced two tons of material—the implication being that Furnivall considered the material ready for a next editorial phase—even if the phase would involve a more sophisticated course of trial-and-error. Don't you think? Wordwright (talk) 18:49, 18 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This article states that Furnivall retained Murray as editor and that they eventually approached the Oxford University Press about publishing it. The Wikipedia article on James Murray says that the OUP interviewed him in 1878 and retained him as editor a year later. Two very different stories. They should be reconciled. I left a similar note on the Talk page for “James Murray”.Merry medievalist (talk) 12:48, 9 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Which edition?[edit]

Robert Kaske by George Simian.jpg

This image of Robert Kaske shows him with a bookcase filled with what look to be volumes of the OED. Can anyone confirm that this is the case? If so, any idea what edition it is? Thanks, --Usernameunique (talk) 06:03, 14 April 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Usernameunique: Thanks for reading the article and posting an interesting question, however, Wikipedia's talk pages are not intended for general discussions of the topic, like a chat page, but for editor discussion about improving the Wikipedia article itself, as per WP:TALK#USE and WP:NSM. May I suggest posting your question to the Wikipedia Reference Desk? Matuko (talk) 10:13, 23 April 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If it was shot in 1974 how could it be anything but the first edition? Nardog (talk) 10:43, 23 April 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know what it is – clearly a major multi-volume dictionary/encyclopedia/reference work of some sort – but it isn't the OED, which has never been published in a one-initial-letter-per-volume format, as this (mostly) appears to be. GrindtXX (talk) 11:37, 23 April 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Can anyone clarify and correct this edit by an IP? The article now appears to say that the OED was regularly awarded as a prize on Countdown until 2010, and was last awarded in 2021. So what happened between 2010 and 2021? Neither of the cited sources suggest anything changed in 2010. GrindtXX (talk) 12:12, 8 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Incorrect Information[edit]

We can't say it is principal because it is largest and most popular. Being largest or being most popular doesn't make it principal, which means main. We should change "principal" to "largest and most popular" or something Petipoelattchi (talk) 15:13, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's claim to being the 'principal' historical dictionary of the English language is based on its length of publication, comprehensiveness and use as a scholarly reference. Its size is just a reflection of its content and its popularity is neither here nor there.
If you consider that the OED is not the principal historical dictionary of the English language, can you suggest which dictionary is? Skullcinema (talk) 23:04, 5 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]