Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dictionary Looking for a Few Good Words

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dictionary Looking for a Few Good Words

Article excerpt

The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary would like a word from you.

Not just any old word will do. The people who edit and compile the massive and authoritative 20-volume reference are looking for new words, and for evidence of new uses, spellings and pronunciations of old words.

English speakers and writers worldwide are being invited to submit the words, along with citations showing where and how they are used, to the editors for the first complete revision of the dictionary in its 100-year history.

The massive, $55 million project is expected to take scholars 10 years to complete.

Even slang, jargon, technical terms and words borrowed from other languages are welcome, the editors say. In fact, any word is acceptable, "as long as it is used by English speakers or writers" and as long as it has been printed somewhere.

Dallas word-watcher Bryan Garner, a regular contributor to the OED and author of the Dictionary of Modern American Usage, says the big news is that the dictionary is asking for the help of not just scholars and specialists but from virtually all English speakers, and that it has broadened its scope to include all varieties of the English language -- from professional jargon to slang.

All of this is of great interest to people who live by the book.

In Jacksonville, the main branch of the public library has hundreds of dictionaries. But the Oxford English Dictionary has special appeal.

The library carries two versions of the dictionary: a set of 10 volumes published in 1928 and a set of 12 published in 1961.

"They're used daily," librarian Gail Marion said.

Sometimes, people call the reference librarian to settle arguments about word meanings. And every morning, a Jacksonville radio station calls to collect its "word of the day."

What makes the dictionary distinct is its historical references as to the first recorded use of the word, and who used it, and its reputation as the definitive, old-school dictionary, Marion said.

"If it's going to include slang," she said, "that's a big change for them."

When the revision is finished in 2010, the editors say, the Oxford English Dictionary "will reveal more vividly than any other dictionary the dynamic, evolving nature of the English language. …

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