: New revision strategy announced by OED editors

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 13 18:31:53 UTC 2008

The combination of this task with the original question in the thread--

>The main purpose of this change is to revise, much earlier than
>would otherwise have been the case, important English words whose
>meanings or application have developed most over the past century:
>i.e. computer, culture, fuck, gay, and genetic. Some of these key
>words are, as one might expect, among those often looked up by
>readers of the OED.

--brings to mind another thread from a while back on OUTiL, on "the
'love' that dare not speak its name".  Two excerpts:
[my post]

I was browsing through the noun entry on LOVE in search of the real
story on the sense used in tennis contexts = 'nothing' (to see
whether I could in fact disconfirm a student's claim that it derives
from l'oeuf), when my eye was arrested by sense 4, the only sense
given for erotic love. Here is the meaning given in full:

4. That feeling of attachment which is based upon difference of sex; the
affection which subsists between lover and sweetheart and is the
normal basis of marriage.

This struck me as somewhat quaint, to put the best face on it, so I
was especially disconcerted to find it reproduced word for word in
the Second Edition (1989) at the library, and in the on-line edition
as well (still under 4, within the noun entry for 'love'). Maybe
nobody ever goes through these, but it seems awfully limiting,
somehow. The only other relevant sense is 6, but that's not much help
('The animal instinct between the sexes, and its gratification'). I
wonder if any troglodyte has ever trotted out these "definitions" to
prove that same-sex love is an oxymoron, the way some lawyer "proved"
that his male client couldn't possibly have been hysterical, because
only women can be hysterics. (And in that case, there's at least the
excuse of etymology...)
[a response from Gregory Ward, reproduced with his tacit consent:]

wow. curiously, the verb entries 'love' vary by transitivity. here's
the definition for transitive 'love':

trans. With personal obj. or one capable of personification: To bear
love to; to entertain a great affection or regard for; to hold dear.

fine. everybody can love a personal object, which seems intuitively
correct. but apparently only the opposite-sex oriented can love tout

intrans. To entertain a strong affection; spec. to have a passionate
attachment to a person of the opposite sex; to be in love.

so, here's an interesting case where "john loves bob" does not entail
"john loves".
Even though it would interfere with one of the regularly scheduled
lectures and/or class assignments in my language, sex & gender class,
it strikes me that the OED could do worse than to begin their
revisions with the entry for LOVE.


At 6:07 PM +0000 3/13/08, ronbutters at aol.com wrote:
>Computer culture-fuck: gay is genetic!
>------Original Message------
>From: Arnold M. Zwicky
>Sender: ADS-L
>To: ADS-L
>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>Sent: Mar 13, 2008 12:47 PM
>Subject: Re: [ADS-L] : New revision strategy announced by OED editors
>On Mar 13, 2008, at 8:47 AM, Joel Berson wrote:
>>  My mailing from the "Oxford English Dictionary Online Update" has
>>  apparently been censored.  It has in the i.e. list (which of course
>>  should be e.g., unless they're saying something really interesting)
>>  merely
>>  computer, culture, gay, and genetic.
>>  I'm also disappointed they did not use all 5 words in a single
>>  sentence.
>fuck gay culture: get a genetic computer!
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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