bent in dictionary scope

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Wed Dec 19 16:27:04 UTC 2012

On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 10:54:21AM -0500, David Barnhart wrote:
> For folks so well understanding of dictionaries, this discussion seems to
> have blithered on long enough, don't you think?
> If the OED was perceived by none other than Sir William Craigie as somewhat
> "selective", why would he have felt the necessity of journeying to Chicago
> to undertake _A Dictionary of American English_?  I believe Bradley (a
> British journalist?) was the one who oversaw [??] the production of the B's
> after critiquing the early fascicles for the letter "A".  So, why shouldn't
> we understand that there is a certain greater attention in a British book to
> British English and a certain other bent towards American in an American
> book.  I doubt that any one dictionary can succeed in covering to the
> satisfaction of some people all varieties of English regardless of their
> color/colour remembering that the sun never sets on the English language.

But David, that's not what the issue is here, and the people who are
claiming that this is a British/American thing are missing the point.
The OED's greater attention to British English is a historical accident,
and the current OED devotes considerable resources to its coverage of
American English.

As I intended to make clear in my previous message, the reason that
Columbia and Yale are not represented in even the revised OED entry for
_blue_ is not that OED editors think that these universities are
unimportant upstarts. It's that you can expect to find examples, quite
readily, of "old blue" or "rowing blue" or "the dark/light blues" in any
British newspaper, but there's absolutely zero chance of finding
equivalent (unexplained) references in any American newspaper. Are they
in use, somewhere, sometimes? Yes. But these uses are so restricted that
they don't belong in even a dictionary like the OED. It's not a
British/American issue--it's just a question of currency.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

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