The Telegraph and the OED

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Nov 30 17:24:13 UTC 2010

To celebrate the OED's new online interface, The Daily Telegraph is
rather hilariously claiming to have "coined" the 251 words for which
the OED currently credits it with the first known citation:

The article backs off from the claim of the headline, but only a bit:
"The paper has either coined them – thanks to a particularly
imaginative or well-refreshed reporter – or, as is more often the
case, been the first publication in the world to use the word in
print." John Simpson of course expresses this less
sensationalistically, pointing out that cites from The Telegraph and
The Times appear so frequently in the OED "probably because they are
the newspapers that the readers and editors of the dictionary read."

Perhaps most risibly, the Telegraph claims first use of various US
counter-cultural terms: "'freak-out' (an intense emotional experience,
especially one resulting from the use of hallucinatory drugs), a
'Be-in' (a public gathering of hippies) and 'soulie' (a fan of soul
music) all appeared first in this newspaper." Just to offer one
antedating: the OED2 cite for "be-in" is from a 3/23/67 Telegraph
article about the Human Be-In in New York's Central Park. This of
course was preceded by the Human Be-In in San Francisco on 1/14/67.
The poster for "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In" famously
appeared in early January on the cover of Issue 5 of the San Francisco
Oracle. The Berkeley Barb also previewed the event:

1967 _Berkeley Barb_ 4(2) 13 Jan. When the Berkeley political
activists and the love generation of the Haight-Ashbury and thousands
of young men and women from every state of the nation embrace at the
gathering of the tribes for a Human Be-In at the Polo Field in Golden
Gate Park, the spiritual revolution will be manifest and proven.
(Quoted in _The Portable Sixties Reader_)


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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