Jonathon Green on dictionaries
Posted: 13 September 2012 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
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He is a respected slang lexicographer in the UK. Here.

(Only time I can recall seeing this spelling of Jonathan though there are plenty if you google.)

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Posted: 13 September 2012 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would have thought that is the more common spelling.

EDIT: added the word “have”, carelessly omitted originally

[ Edited: 13 September 2012 08:44 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 13 September 2012 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Jonathan is by far the most common form and follows the pattern of the Hebrew יְהוֹנָתָן (Yehonatan) or יוֹנָתָן (Yonatan)), meaning God has given. (The foregoing Hebrew is taken from BehindTheName.com and I have practically no knowledge of the language myself so please, Lionello, correct it if it’s wrong).

Other English forms listed on the site are Johnathan, Johnathon, Jonathon and I’m sure there are more.

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Posted: 13 September 2012 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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From the article: “Still, there are no sock-puppets, and reference publishing – in deep doo-doo – must do what it can.” Is this a signal for you, Aldi, to submit ‘diegogarcity?’

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Posted: 13 September 2012 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Looks spot-on to me, aldi. I checked out a few names of Hebrew origin at that site : Adam, Eve, Matthew, Samuel, Barak (that’s an interesting one - it means “lightning” in Hebrew, but has also another meaning - “blessing” - in Arabic, from an unrelated root). The site seems well-informed, where Hebrew is concerned—though I think I’d take issue with the sense of “God has heard” for Samuel. To mean that, the Hebrew name should include the letter ‘ayin, as does Yishma’el (Ishmael)—“God will hear” (Mind you, I’m no great mayvin, just a common or garden speaker of modern Hebrew).  I wouldn’t know, of course, about the reliability of the site with respect to names of Germanic, Latin, Slavic, etc. origin—but it looks good enough for me to bookmark it. I’d be happy to hear the opinion of better-informed posters.

Biblical names in English (perhaps in other European languages too) seem to have got a big boost in popularity after the Reformation, among both Anglicans and nonconformists. My father (some of whose ancestors were Wesleyans from northern Lancashire) told me that it was the custom among Wesleyans to give a male child a Biblical middle name: his middle name was Samuel, his father’s - Adam. I don’t know about female children. The 17th and 18th centuries seem to have spawned a huge brood of Habbakuks, Zephaniahs, Obadiahs, and similar rather far-out monikers. I particularly enjoy the names given to girls (and occasionally to boys) by Puritan parents: Faith, Hope, Charity, Patience, Constance.

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Posted: 13 September 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I enjoyed that bit of instant diegogarcity, but I am also rather confused by the statement that “there are no sock puppets”.  There are, of course, many people who utilize sock puppets on the net, and, moreover, such puppetry could badly skew any attempt to have people “vote” on definitions and or entries.  Was he being sarcastic?  Or literalistic in an absurdist way (I.e., sock puppets are, by definition, fictional, so there aren’t really any sock puppets).  Or making some other, possibly quite brilliant, point that I am missing utterly?

And what does the (sarcastically asserted or otherwise) non-existence of sock puppets have to do with publishing houses being in deep financial doo doo? (I suppose sock puppets are unlikely to buy books, and, therefore, are unlikely to be of any aid to such companies, but I don’t think that’s his point.)

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Posted: 13 September 2012 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I just read the whole article in an effort to figure out what that sentence meant, with no luck.  It’s a terrible sentence in a terrible article.  Take this paragraph:

And if not? Then we have the Urban Dictionary. Every line a laff, but do we believe this farrago of misinformation, theorising, one-off terms and a level of “definition” based on a count of thumbs up and down? There is gold too, but often lost among the dross. Let us look up “slang”, always a challenge. Top definition: “The only reason Urbandictionary.com exists.” I’m sorry but this does not help. If I want fun, then I’ll go to Roger’s Profanisaurus. But I, and millions of others, also want practical, utile facts.

How disingenuous can you get?  Nobody goes to Urban Dictionary to look up “slang,” any more than they go to the OED to look up some weird word they heard from a rapper or their teenage son.  And if they did, it wouldn’t be there; hence Urban Dictionary.  Of course Green doesn’t want people to use Urban Dictionary, he wants them to shell out for his extremely expensive—but professionally edited!—book.  The whole essay is an elaborate piece of turf-protection, and reeks of over-the-top anxiety ("utile"!).  Sorry, Jonathon.  You produced a great book; now sit back and enjoy it, and don’t try to police the hoi polloi.

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Posted: 13 September 2012 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’m with Green on this one. I don’t think he is advocating against the “hoi polloi,” but making the quite correct point that lexicography is a skilled vocation that requires professionals, or at least well-trained amateurs. Crowd-sourcing has limited utility in lexicography. It can be very useful for acquiring data (after all, the original OED methodology of using readers was an exercise in crowd-sourcing), but that data must be put into useful form by skilled editors.

This is in contrast to encyclopedias, like Wikipedia, which can reasonably and fairly easily be turned over completely to the masses. Contributing to an encyclopedia article requires only subject matter expertise and the ability to write coherently, skills that the crowd possesses.

Urban Dictionary is simply not an authoritative source for slang terms. It’s a mess. (A very fun mess, but still a mess.) Slang lexicographers would be wise to mine it for potential words, but no one should take anything on Urban Dictionary as representing anything close to the truth without independent verification, which defeats the purpose of a reference work.

[Deleted some comments on Green’s dictionary, which on second thought were not valid.]

[ Edited: 13 September 2012 03:16 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 14 September 2012 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thank you, lionello, as informative as ever.

And no, skibs. In my opinion if a word needs to be submitted then it just ain’t ready for primetime. In other words if it gets enough traction the dictionaries won’t need prompting to include it I remain cautiously pessimistic.

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Posted: 14 September 2012 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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In my opinion if a word needs to be submitted then it just ain’t ready for primetime.

Lexicographers are just as subject to the myopia and limiting effect that their social circles have on their language as anyone else. The examples of widespread usages that dictionaries have missed are legion. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of words from fields like sports, science fiction, comics/graphic novels, and other fields, as well as dialectal terms that may be widespread in particular regions, that have been ignored by dictionaries for decades simply because the editors were unaware of them.

Often the lexicographers need to be prodded to notice a term.

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Posted: 14 September 2012 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Urban Dictionary is simply not an authoritative source for slang terms. It’s a mess. ... Slang lexicographers would be wise to mine it for potential words, but no one should take anything on Urban Dictionary as representing anything close to the truth without independent verification, which defeats the purpose of a reference work.

This is bizarre to me (and frankly sounds exactly like people complaining about Wikipedia, a similar venture you choose to defend).  I have never once gone to UD and failed to find what I needed; among the jokey or irrelevant “definitions” there is always the one that explains the usage I had run into.  What would you suggest I do, wait until the OED catches up to it (in the unlikely event that the term proves lasting enough to be accepted)?  Yes, UD has to be used with caution and good sense, just like every other reference work.  Its failings are different than those of the OED, but neither can replace the other.  I understand Green’s burning need to defend his turf, but I don’t really see why you’re going along with him. (N.b.: Someone could make similar complaints about Wordorigins.org.)

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Posted: 15 September 2012 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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There are significant differences between UD and Wikipedia. The major one is that UD is not edited. At all. When someone posts an entry, it’s there to stay, no matter how incorrect or irrelevant. Wikipedia entries do get scrubbed. Other differences include the fact that Wikipedia provides for, and encourages, citations to source material for the facts it presents. Wikipedia is a decent first-resort reference, about as accurate and useful as any professionally edited encyclopedia.

And your experience with UD is markedly different than mine. I almost never find the answer I’m looking for. The answer may be in there among the hundreds of entries for a particular word, but good luck finding it and recognizing that it is the right one when you do. UD is fun and it’s a useful corpus of lexicographers, but it’s not a reference. Yes, every reference has its limitations, but I wouldn’t even classify UD as a reference it is that far off the mark. (I’m not saying UD should go away. I like UD. I just would never point someone to it to find the answer to a question about slang.)

My point is that a dictionary is a different beast than an encyclopedia. The latter can, as Wikipedia has shown, be completely crowdsourced. But a dictionary needs to be edited by people who know what they’re doing. You can crowdsource aspects of the work (as the OED has done since its inception), but the final product has to be produced by skilled craftspeople, not the masses.

And I define a reference work as one where that is structured to aid in the location of the desired facts (simply providing full-text search is not a structure), that the facts are clearly presented, and one has a reasonable assurance that the facts are correct. UD does not meet these criteria.

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