OED Editing Drama

There’s nothing like the excitement generated by a good story about dictionary editing gone wild.

The Guardian ran this piece on Monday about the OED “covertly” deleting words because they came from sources outside England.

The only problem is, that it doesn’t seem to be true. Yes, the dictionary deleted words, and these were disproportionately words from non-UK varieties of English, but there was nothing covert about it. The dictionary clearly explained its editorial policy and under what circumstances words would be struck from the dictionary. The words weren’t deleted because they were foreignisms, but because the evidence for their use was not substantive enough. At the same time, the editors were adding many more foreignisms that were better researched and clearly established. When dealing with a print dictionary, there is only so much room and such editorial decisions need to be made. Furthermore, the book on which The Guardian bases its article apparently does not make the claims the newspaper says it does.

Jesse Sheidlower has a response on the New Yorker’s blog.

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