Readersforum's Blog

November 30, 2012

Former OED editor covertly deleted thousands of words, book claims

Efforts to rewrite the dictionary in the 70s and 80s to omit entries with foreign origins described as ‘really shocking’ by author.

By Alison Flood

An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors, according to claims in a book published this week.

Robert Burchfield’s efforts to rewrite the dictionary have been uncovered by Sarah Ogilvie, a linguist, lexicographer and former editor on the OED.

Ogilvie worked for 11 years to research and write Words of the World, published by Cambridge University Press, which challenges the widely held belief that editors of the OED between 1884 and 1933 were Anglocentric Oxford dons obsessed with preserving the Queen’s English, and that it was not until Robert Burchfield’s four supplements, produced between 1972 and 1986, that the dictionary was opened up to the wider world.

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