Canadian Dictionary Getting Full Overhaul

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 12 18:52:55 UTC 2007

See below for interesting article about revision of Dictionary of

Fred Shapiro

Canadian Dictionary Getting Full Overhaul
Karenn Krangle, The Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, March 12, 2007
Ottawa Citizen

A shorter URL for the above link:


Dollinger leads a University of British Columbia project to revise the
Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, which lists 10,000
words of significance to Canada, each with its own history.

The 927-page dictionary was published in 1967 out of the University of
Victoria. But 40 years on, the dictionary is showing its age.
If you read the dictionary  you get the sense of Canada being a
fur-trading and trapping nation, Dollinger says. And its true, for much of
its history, thats been very big.

But (what about) all the theoretical concepts, the sciences, the
humanities that have been developed that are not in there, that have been
made in Canada?

The task, in addition to listing new words and expressions, is to update
words that have gained additional meanings or whose definitions have

While other Canadian dictionaries have been published, including the
Canadian Oxford Dictionary, none contains the historical documentation
Dollinger and his team of English professors feel is a vital part of who
Canadians are.

People are looking for their own identity in language, what is Canadian,
he says. And while those contemporary dictionaries are really great, in
many ways it just takes a historical dimension to get close to explaining
whats really going on.

His colleague Laurel Brinton adds: For many years, Canadian English was
just considered an amalgam of American and British English. It took these
dictionaries to establish the fact that no, its a distinct dialect.
Probably the oldest word in the dictionary is Cabotia  coined in 1498 by
explorer John Cabot, who suggested the newly discovered lands be called by
that name. It didnt stick, but someone at least had the foresight to
record it.

When work began on the venerable Oxford English Dictionary about 150 years
ago, the writers scrawled words and their meanings on small slips of paper
and stuffed them into boxes and desk drawers until they could be properly

That procedure continued in a more refined form, using file cards called
citation slips, until 1979, Dollinger says. The first edition of the
dictionary of Canadianisms used 102,000 of them.
Now, with the help of computers, electronic databases and the Internet,
the lexicographer can type in words and some cross-references and the
search is on.


The complete article may be read at the URL above.

The American Dialect Society -

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