Category Archives: Language and Literature in Society

||-Tripping over tramlines-||

“Tramlines”, icydk, are those upright parallel bars that OED1 and OED2 editors used to indicate that a word was “alien or not fully naturalized”. So, for instance, zeitgeist you may recognize as a word of German origin, not infrequently heard in English. In OED1 (1928) it appeared as ||Zeitgeist, and this mark was preserved on […]

Guest Post: Cataloguing the Catalogue

Cosmin Dszurdsza is a research assistant at The Life of Words. In my last guest post I discussed problematic magazine classifications. Now, once again, a periodical publication proves to be an exciting and difficult genre identification challenge. The kind of text I will be dealing with today is the “catalogue” (filtered out of our data […]

Shakespeare’s Earliest Citations in the OED

No author’s representation in the OED has received more comment than Shakespeare’s: if you ever come across a mention of OED citation evidence, more than likely it’s being used to substantiate (sometimes challenge or qualify) a claim that Shakespeare invented the most English words, or made up the most new meanings for existing words, or […]

OED Subject Matter

In my last post I described using HathiTrust’s Solr Proxy API to fetch Hathi genre metadata for OED quotations. But genre is not the only metadata that Hathi sends back down the intertubes when I ask it a question. For most works, I also get a Library of Congress Classification code for the volume. This […]

OED Gender Genre

In “Sex in the OED” I  ran through some figures on female vs male representation in OED quotation evidence, comparing the original OED1 with the later Supplements that resulted in OED2. Here I look a little closer at what kinds of works by women the two editions tended to cite. Below are two charts breaking […]

Burchfield’s Reach-Backs

The vast majority of the quotation evidence in Robert Burchfield’s OED Supplements comes from after the first (1928) edition was completed. The median date for these is 1944, whereas for the first edition it’s 1742. However, in some circumstances the Supplements did reach back into periods already covered by OED1 — if it could antedate […]

Sex in the OED

Two subprojects concerning OED quotation metadata are now near enough to complete to present some preliminary results. They concern the sex of the authors quoted in the OED, in both the first edition (1928) and the later Supplements (1933, 1972-86). The most focused work on this question so far has been Baigent, Brewer, and Larminie, […]

Entitled Professor

I happen to have an interest and a certain amount of expertise in words that mean their own opposites. You might say I’m qualified to post here on that topic. You might even say I’m entitled to my opinion on a wider range of things in which I’m not necessarily expert. But if you call […]

Last Day to Submit a Poem for the 2016 Poetry Contest

Today is the last day for Ontario secondary school students to submit a poem to The Life of Words Poetry Competition 2016. Keep your eye on the contest page for upcoming news, and for eventual publication of The Life of Words Anthology 2016, which will print the winning entry and all honourable mentions. We’re received […]

How did OED Supplements Supplement?

There has always been an interest in the changing editorial practice within and between various editions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Recently some scholars have complained that changing electronic interfaces are making it impossible to distinguish what edition a particular definition or quotation is coming from. See, e.g., Charlotte Brewer, “OED Online Re-launched: Distinguishing old […]