Category Archives: Language and Literature in Society

The New-Look OED: The End of the Entry

The new-look OED Online tosses a lot that was great, and unique, and real, about OED, while offering little new of value.

Published: Women’s Words in the OED

Now published in Review of English Studies, an article by me on the ways in which the Oxford English Dictionary has treated texts authored by women in its marshalling of citation evidence for English language lexis, from the first edition (1884-1928) to the current OED3 revision (2000-). The approach I take is driven by quantitative […]

OED Work on “Writing and Editing” Podcast

I talked with Wayne Jones the other day about my work on the Oxford English Dictionary. The result was this short piece on my plans for an updated OED bibliography and Variorum: 182. Enhancing the Oxford English Dictionary

Money for a Variorum OED & OED Bibliography

Over the past many moons I’ve posted from time to time about my researches into the Oxford English Dictionary, and some of the interesting or puzzling or maddening or heartening things I’ve found there. A big theme lately has been the need for a Variorum, or track-changes, OED, which would allow researchers to compare the […]

Two reviews of The Life of Words

It has been almost two years since I published The Life of Words: Etymology and Modern Poetry, and even longer since I stopped working on it. A couple of reviews have come out, one just the other day. They’re by Barry Wallenstein (in Choice) and Stephanie Burt (in Modern Philology). The latter is free to read without […]

Christmas Dinner

O, how I have complained over “DINNER” in the Oxford English Dictionary [see “Oxford English Dinner“]. The close of 2021 brought an early Christmas surprise: a new, fully revised entry. And it’s not just any revision, but one of those with an extended lexicological and sociohistorical note. The first main definition now says: 1. Originally: […]

OED “Transgender” Update Update

In my last post [“Why we need a Variorum OED: ‘Transgender’ ” 9/12/2020], I pointed to the OED entry for TRANSGENDER as it appeared in December 2020 as a good example of the need for a Variorum OED, which would label all elements (etymologies, definitions, quotations) with their individual revision histories. Well, in the last […]

Why We Need a Variorum OED: “Transgender”

The need for a Variorum–i.e. a detailed revision history for every published element of the OED since 1884–is becoming even more acute.

Published: “Alien” vs. Editor: “World English” in the OED 1884-2020

This article discusses the changing ways in which the Oxford English Dictionary has recorded the vocabularies of ‘World English’ from the beginnings to the present day.

Seamus Heaney on Dictionaries

In the summer of 2012 Seamus Heaney wrote to me on some questions I had sent him about dictionaries and words and etymologies. Bits of what he had to say made it into a couple of talks I did around that time, but I recently rediscovered the original text, and thought it should see the […]