FW: Antedating of "Bakery"

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Apr 18 13:02:02 UTC 2003

Fred's discovery of bakery in Washington is a marvelous antedating (see
below), but from the context it is clear that it is by no means the
first-ever citation.  GW uses the word in a setting with other familiar
terms that he expects everyone will know -- no place to find a new word.

This whole issue with bakery is a great example of the "citational fallacy".
The original OED readers (probably scores of them) read right past the word
bakery many times, surely, in works older than 1820.  Amateur and even
trained readers are attracted to oddball words, not common ones.

[Aside: That is the problem with dictionaries that rely solely on citational
evidence -- they miss covering the common words well and thoroughly, because
the bulk of their evidence has to do with other sorts of words, owing to the
nature of reading for citations.  Citation reading can be compared to
searching for butterflies, and capturing and keeping only the interesting
specimens.  If enough citation reading has been done over time, good
citation-based dicts have good examples of early usage for oddball words and
newish words (and of many common words as well, to be sure), but they often
miss good coverage of common words.  Not always, but often.]

OED had an 1820 example as their oldest when the editor came to write that
entry, so that editor HAD to go with that as the first example.  Back in
those days -- and bakery would have been in Murray's time, I think -- there
was no means to efficiently track down an earlier example of a given word,
and besides, no time.  Even OED cannot do (much of) that sort of research.
Even today, with awesome electronic means, OED editors may not have time to
go digging around for something earlier, on a hunch.  The entry one is
working on (and many thousands more that will follow, forever) has to be
revised, and the update or new edition completed or moved along, at least.
If the lexo stops to do further research, entry after entry, the update or
revision would never get finished.  Even OED has deadlines -- no dig at them
at all, just an acknowledgment that, because of the incredibly massive scope
of OED, it SEEMS that it takes a long time to get OED revisions out, but in
fact it they come out at a  pretty brisk pace now, given the task OED faces
-- every day, every year, every decade, for the rest of time, as long as the
English she is spoken and OUP carries on.

It is for Barry P, Fred S, Jerry C, and others to find antedatings of
individual words, not necessarily the staff of OED.

Frank Abate

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Laurence Horn
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 10:25 PM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Bakery"

Fred uncovers:
>bakery (OED c1820)
>1780 George Washington _Let._ 24 May in _Writings of Washington_ (1937)
>XVIII. 411  Independent of the apartments for the sick, there must be one
>or more kitchens; an apothecarys shop; a magazine for drugs and remedies;
>an oven; a bakery.
Can this really be the first cite?  George Washington, the father of
our "bakery"?

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