"Rule of thumb" (1685)

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Jul 23 01:13:22 UTC 2007

On Sun, 22 Jul 2007, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:

>> The datings in the Random House dictionaries are speculative.
> That's a little misleading. The date ranges in the RH
> dictionaries are meant to suggest that the coinage date is not
> something that can be quantified exactly, i.e. that the first
> known quotation is probably not the coinage. Giving a date

I understand the theory behind the RH dates, but I believe it gives most
readers a false sense that RH knows somehow that the word was coined in
that date range, whereas in fact it is a standardized guess they make for
every word that may be way off.  To me a note in the front matter would
make more sense than this misleading standardized guess.

Over the years I have had many people tell me that the OED is wrong
because RH gives an earlier dating for a word.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
   Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press
Yale Law School                             ISBN 0300107986
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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