Category Archives: Uncategorized

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 […]

Fulsome Recovery

The 1989 Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary will tell you that you’re wrong if your think fulsome means the same as full. If you give a ‘fulsome answer’ to some question (as I’ve noticed many people do), it will tell you that your answer is ‘disgusting, repulsive, odious’, ‘Offensive to good taste’ and ‘gross […]

“Covid-19”, and other swiftly documented words in the OED

The OED documented the verb to Google in a 2006 update, eight years after the first occurrence of this sense in print (1998, in eGroups, an old mailing list). Happy slap and derivatives also took eight years to get in, appearing in 2013.  Ditto paywall (published 2012), sext (2015), retweet (2015), and Schmallenberg virus (2019). Omnishambolic (2019) and live-blog (2013) took […]

LOWBot Goes a(n)-Antedating

In an earlier post, OED Antedating OED, I documented how OED3’s rate of antedating had improved dramatically since the revision kicked off in 2000, from around 35-40% of word entries antedated in the first five or six years of updates, to above 60% since 2012, noting that one reason for the improvement must be the […]

OED3 Revision, Revised for 2020

In my previous post [OED3’s Revision Status (c. 2018.12.15)] I took a bird’s eye view of when various parts of the Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED3) were added, and when revised (if they’ve been revised). I came up with a figure that at the end of last year (2018), 50.4% of entries in OED3 were […]

Posting Over at the OED Blog

I’ve written a post for the OED blog, digging into OED data on regional varieties of English: “When Regional Englishes Got Their Words“. Check it out! — there I plot the number and date of all OED first citations pertaining to senses typical of regional Englishes, and take a closer look at the chronology of […]

OED Antedating OED

In 6 years, OED went from a 40% to a 60% antedating rate, a remarkable improvement.You want to know what the biggest antedating has been so far, don’t you? Well, I’ll tell you.

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 […]

Ted Cruz is no Scyld Scefing

I’ve read Beowulf. Beowulf was a friend of mine. And Senator… You know, when things sound stupid, they very usually are. And this headline sounds stupid: Ted Cruz as Beowulf: Matching Candidates With the Books They Sound Like [- The Upshot (New York Times Data Blog – click to view article)] No one who has […]