Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu Dec 6 11:03:23 UTC 2012

I almost didn't include the mention of the publication history as I've
usually found that portion of the OED entry to not only be unhelpful, but
actively misleading. At least with the print editions you could go back to
the old volumes and actually check what had changed. With the online edition
that's not only no longer possible, but the wording of the publication
history actually leads you to the wrong conclusions.

(A wiki-style revisions history would be ideal if it could be implemented
under the current architecture.)

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Ben Zimmer
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 6:57 PM
Subject: Re: OMG

On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 11:37 AM, Dave Wilton wrote:
> The Daily News article seems to simply be relying on the OED, which
> has the
> 1917 letter as the first citation. The OED entry is from March 2004,
> so it's hardly a new discovery.

Jesse can confirm, but I don't believe that the 1917 cite was in the Mar.
2004 "OMG" entry. (Despite the helpful "publication history"
info, it's still difficult to determine if/when a new entry has been
subsequently revised.) The first I heard about the cite was in Mar.
2011, when the OED publicized updates for a number of initialisms:

A roundup of some of the reactions here:

> The next citation is an adjectival use of OMG from 1982. Making the
> 1917 use something of an outlier. Although given the penchant people
> have for creating initialisms, it seems plausible that OMG was
> independently coined on numerous occasions, and I wouldn't be
> surprised if earlier (and later) ones showed up.

The comments here are helpful in understanding the 1917 cite as a play on
abbreviations for orders of knighthood:

Note that this is not a use of OMG as an interjection but rather a
suggestion for a new order of knighthood analogous to OBE.
Comment by Alan Shaw - November 28, 2012 @ 2:40 am
Further to Alan's perceptive correction, it might be worth pointing out that
other orders in the UK have long had humorous alternative readings.
>From the 1980s series, "Yes, Minister"
Bernard Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for
Kindly Call Me God.
Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?
Bernard: God Calls Me God.
Official meanings:
CMG: Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
KCMG: Knight Commander .
GCMG: Grand Cross .
Comment by Mat Morrison - November 28, 2012 @ 10:36 am


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list