Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Tue Sep 23 14:42:11 UTC 2003

On Tue, Sep 23, 2003 at 10:34:31AM -0400, Joanne M. Despres wrote:
> On 23 Sep 2003, at 9:35, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
> > This is no longer OED's policy; we now give words in the order of
> > the evidence, regardless of what our expectations are for the
> > word's development. We do add notes if necessary to explain why
> > we think that something may have derived from a later-attested
> > sense.
> Sorry for having forgotten about OED's change of policy, Jesse.
> Am I correct in thinking that this change was motivated in part by
> the availability of a great deal of new documentary evidence that
> put many "illogical" orderings right?

That's a nice plus, but the main reason was just the more-descriptive
reason that our role should be to give the evidence, not start to
jockey the senses around to fit our impression of what the sense
development must have been. Also, more experience shows that what
we expect often doesn't match up with what's out there, even with
bigger databases.

An example from the revised public ranges of such an approach is

meat-axe...<note>The literal meaning at (2) is likely to
be the original use in English.</note>

1. A crude, violent, or drastic approach....

2. _lit._ An implement with a heavy blade used for cutting meat...

(Of course, this was a relatively early entry in terms of
availability of databases, so I'm sure by the time the day is
out Barry will have ensured that sense 2 is antedated by
several generations. But there are other examples.)

Jesse Sheidlower
Oxford English Dictionary

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