Minor Antedating of "Time Machine"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Oct 8 16:42:35 UTC 2011

The OED, and even the website for the science fiction terminology project to aid the OED, give H.G. Wells's 1895 novel as the first use of the term "time machine."  Actually the term appeared in the serial publication of the novel in the National Observer in 1894.

I assume the OED does not have a policy against citing pre-book versions of a novel for a first use, and that indeed it should seek out such pre-book versions for first uses unless the antedating is a trivial one such as an earlier date within the same year.

The terms "time traveller" and "time travelling" similarly should have first uses from the 1894 serial publication.

Side note:  Although in the past I seem to be the only one who believes that important neologisms from important books should be included in OED regardless of whether they entered the language with broader meanings, let me again make that point, this time with regard to the fact that the word "morlock" from The Time Machine is not included in OED.

Fred Shapiro

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

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