Interesting article in the Financial Times. Some appetizers:
Look for a topical expression in the Oxford English Dictionary and you may find it is older than you think. “Phone-hacking”, for example, was first used in the early 1980s. Americans have been worrying about “fiscal cliffs” of one kind or another for more than 50 years. And the desire for an “Arab spring” goes back to at least 1975 – or longer in the case of cyclists, for whom the term was coined in the late 19th century to denote a component in the suspension of saddles.
Words need a bit of a track record to make it into the OED. Once there, the rule is that they never come out, with obsolescence marked, instead, by dagger symbols sprinkled like memento mori through its pages. In general, the lexicographers look for evidence of at least 10 years’ use, though they do break this rule occasionally: “tweet” in its Twitter sense is included despite only having been around since 2006; the more recent “trending”, however, is not. “It’s on the back burner,” says Craig Leyland, a member of the new words team. “If it keeps being used in the same way, then it will most likely be going in.”
Lexicography, unlike journalism, is a field in which deadline extensions can occasionally be justified. James Murray (1837-1915), the indefatigable editor who oversaw much of the first edition, was originally commissioned to produce a four-volume work within a decade; after five years, he had got as far as the word “ant”.