Oxford English Dictionary’s 130th anniversary

first_imgThe Oxford English Dictionary celebrated its 130th anniversary last week.On the 29th January 1884, the first installment of the Oxford English Dictionary was published. It covered the words from A to Ant.The origin of the dictionary is traced back to 1857, when three members of the Philological Society of London, Richard Chenevix Trench, Herbert Coleridge and Frederick Furnivall, decided to completely re-examine the English language and create a new and better organised English dictionary.The project proceeded very slowly after Trench left the project to take up the position of the Dean of Westminster and Coleridge, having assembled 100,000 quotation slips, died of tuberculosis. Furnivall continued with it for a while but progress was slow.In 1879, an agreement was made with the Oxford University Press and a Scottish grammar school teacher called James A.H Murray to revive the project.Murray envisaged that the project would be finished within ten years and that the dictionary would consist of four-volumes and 6,400 pages, including all the English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period (1150 AD) onward.The project in fact took 44 years to complete and the first complete edition, which was published in April 1928, consisted of 15,000 pages and 400,000 words.Since then the dictionary has been updated a number of times by supplements. The Oxford University Press, who still produce the dictionary, also spent 13.5 million pounds over five years in order to create an electronic version of the dictionary which could then be more easily altered and updated.Today the dictionary is available in print as well as an online publication. It is also in the process of its first major revision, the results of which are posted online every three months.Emma Coombs, an English student at University College, commented, “The dictionary is unlike any other and cites the etymology of every word whether current or obsolete. I can’t get my head around how they do it now, let alone then.”She added, “Most English students probably have a love/hate relationship with it; I mean it is great but having whole classes and lectures dedicated to it’s use seems excessive.“It can really open up literature though, knowing that Chaucer or Milton are the first citations for certain words can illuminate their works. I like that it looks forward too and the fact that it’s under constant revision means it doesn’t get left behind.”A second year English student at Keble, said, “It is well-known that the English language is constantly evolving and expanding, so the fact that the OED still remains current is a testament to the dedication of its many editors and contributors over the years.”“Not just a resource for looking up definitions (and filling up essay word-counts), it also gives us a sense of the history of the English language even as we witness and participate in its ongoing revitalisation.”last_img read more