Wendalyn Nichols wendalyn at NYC.RR.COM
Mon Dec 17 14:39:31 UTC 2001

There's one case of a deliberate error I know of, from the world of second
language learners' dictionaries. The lexicographic community is small
enough; the world of ESL/EFL lexicography is even smaller, and its
practitioners in the 1980s had nearly all worked for all of the major
houses--Longman, Oxford, and Collins. Needless to say, about the only thing
that ensured that a given lexicographer's definition for given word would
differ from the definition he or she had written the last time around was
the individual house style. On top of that, innovative ideas that appeared
in one house's flagship volume would be taken up by competitors in their
next editions. When I was training under Michael Rundell, he used to get
quite exercised over what he considered to be outright plagiarism of Longman
content by Oxford.

The lexicographers on the COBUILD project, the new kid on the block at the
time, decided to test the plagiarism theory, and inserted the word "hink"
into the entry list of the first edition. I think its meaning was given as
"to think long and hard about something." The ploy was too obvious, and no
one made the mistake of copying it; it was removed from the second edition.
I'm sure there are a few hapless second language learners who only ever
bought the first edition and still think it's a word.

As junior lexicographers, however, I and the members of my team were taken
with the idea of trying that stunt ourselves. In corpus searches, one of my
British colleagues encountered the word "chiffonier," which she'd never seen
before. She asked aloud if any of us had heard of it, pronouncing it as a
French word (shi-fon-YAY). Not recognizing (shi-fon-EER) in that
pronunciation, I said it sounded like a French term for someone in a house
of haute couture whose job was dealing with chiffon. Once I saw the word
written down I recognized it as the regional American term for a type of
bedroom bureau, but we decided to give the spurious meaning as a second
definition. Our senior editor caught it, though, and overruled its inclusion
against our protests.
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Bergdahl" <einstein at FROGNET.NET>
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2001 3:19 PM
Subject: Re: Dord

> Aren't there also instances of 'words' inserted into dictionaries for the
> purpose of catching plagiarists such as the $1.59/volume dictionaries that
> used to be for sale in groceries?  Certainly it would be worthwhile for
> Merriam to look to see how many of these contain entries for 'dord.'
> ___________________
> We are all New Yorkers
> --Dominique Moisi
> New York is America. We're all in this together
> --Mayor Rudy Giuliani

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