The OED's "Publication history"
dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Sep 17 15:08:35 UTC 2012
>The OED could bury all superseded published entries in full,
>leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone interested in
>finding them, but that will get to be a complicated tangle
>in the decades to come.
That's exactly what Wikipedia does. It can look like a mess, but tracing the
editorial history can be incredibly valuable (as the recent Philip Roth
controversy has shown). For online works, the data already exists, and all
that is needed is the software code to display it. So it's not terribly
difficult or onerous to do. This is essentially what the OED has done with
the second edition-make it available for comparison.
But it is much more difficult to do with past print editions. For those, you
have to pay someone to dig up the old copies and enter in the data, taking
care not to introduce typos or other errors in the process. Even creating a
summary of the changes in each edition would be expensive and time
consuming. I wouldn't expect the OED to have the budget to do this, however
nice it might be to have.
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2012 10:53 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: The OED's "Publication history"
Some years ago, I went to a special library that had kept the original
fascicles of the OED, to confirm that the passage from Jane Austen's early
novel using the words "base ball" was there, and the year of publication.
It was, so there was documentation that there was a game called "baseball"
in the very early 19th C, widely available before the Abner Doubleday hoax
But this "what did they know, and when did they know it" question is much
harder to answer with an on-line file that's open to snout-to-tail revision
and general fiddling. An OED entry can carry a note to the effect "first
drafted in 1998, revised in 2007", but that won't tell us whether the
definition was rephrased, or some early citations added or what exactly was
done in 2007. The OED could bury all superseded published entries in full,
leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone interested in finding them, but
that will get to be a complicated tangle in the decades to come.
Not many people will care, but I can imagine controversies of more
significance than the prehistory of baseball that might hinge on whether due
diligence in 2005 could have uncovered that a word had a certain meaning.
(Actually, I can't imagine a controversy of more significance than the
prehistory of baseball -- that was just a rhetorical posture.)
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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