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Re: Cleaning House

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 13:08:19 +0100
Message-ID: <463DC533.3060507@cam.ac.uk>
To: Tina Holmboe <tina@greytower.co.uk>
Cc: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>, Anne van Kesteren <annevk@opera.com>, Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@royal-tunbridge-wells.org>, www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org

Tina Holmboe wrote:
>   But the OED, as I believe you would be hard pressed to deny, does
>   not simply toss everything and anything they find into the dictionary
>   without some rather careful consideration.

"A question commonly asked of every lexicographer is "How do you choose 
which words go into the Dictionary?"

Oxford's reading programmes pick up thousands of new words each year, 
but a new word is not included in the OED unless it has "caught on" and 
become established in the language. Words that are only used for a short 
period of time, or by a very small number of people, are not included.

To determine whether a word has caught on, we normally require several 
independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence that the 
word has been in use for a reasonable span of time. The exact span of 
time and number of examples can vary from word to word: a word may be 
included on the evidence of only a few examples, if these are spread out 
over a long period of time. Conversely, a large number of examples 
collected over a short period of time can show that a word has very 
quickly become established.

Of course, even if a word is initially rejected, the evidence for it is 
kept in our files and databases, in case further examples turn up. The 
OED's Quotations Room contains thousands of words for which we have only 
a single example, many of them dating back decades or even centuries: 
usurance has been awaiting a second example since 1912, and abrasure 
since 1827!"[1]

So they don't include everything but do include anything with 
significant usage. It all seems rather sensible to me.

[1] http://oed.com/about/writing/choosing.html
"Instructions to follow very carefully.
Go to Tesco's.  Go to the coffee aisle.  Look at the instant coffee. 
Notice that Kenco now comes in refil packs.  Admire the tray on the 
shelf.  It's exquiste corrugated boxiness. The way how it didn't get 
crushed on its long journey from the factory. Now pick up a refil bag. 
Admire the antioxidant claim.  Gaze in awe at the environmental claims 
written on the back of the refil bag.  Start stroking it gently, its my 
packaging precious, all mine....  Be thankful that Amy has only given 
you the highlights of the reasons why that bag is so brilliant."
-- ajs
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 12:11:23 UTC

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