Pitfalls of Online Antedating

Wed Jan 19 18:31:32 UTC 2005

        Fred's warning is well-taken (and I thank him for the correction), but I'm not sure what the answer is, short of checking every online citation against a hard copy.  I went back and looked again at the Westlaw document, and there is simply no setoff of the 1896 editorial material from the 1799 document.    We clearly don't want to give up our use of online resources, even though they occasionally have errors.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Fred Shapiro
Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 1:06 PM
Subject: Pitfalls of Online Antedating

As more and more of our "antedatings" are obtained from online sources, it
is more and more important to be conscious of the bibliographic and
textual complexities that are so important to the accuracy and the
authority of the OED.  One of the things that makes Barry Popik's research
so special is that he still is in the research libraries looking up print
sources when the rest of us are limited to our computers (well, I
sometimes get into the stacks, but far less than I used to).

The citation above is a great case in point.  This is really an 1896
occurrence, not a 1799 occurrence.  Federal Cases is a set of books that
frequently pops up in Lexis and Westlaw searches without any indication of
its true nature.  It was a late 19th-century reprint of federal decisions,
in which the opinions from older "nominative" reporters are imperceptibly
blended in with late 19th-century editorial additions.  Here the word
"extradition"  appears only in the 1896 editorial additions.  The Metzger
case cited above is an 1847 case, so it clearly could not be referred to
in 1799.

Fred Shapiro

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