OED looks for words used worldwide to reflect global nature of English

English has been spoken across the world for hundreds of years.

And now the Oxford English Dictionary has launched a campaign to make sure its contents reflects the language’s global nature.

The dictionary is looking to expand its entries by including more words from Anglophone countries outside the UK.

Eleanor Maier, associate editor of the OED, said it had “always been a global dictionary” but its expertise was slanted towards Britain and America because it was based in the two countries.

“A lot of the English we’re exposed to tends to be from the UK or America and when it comes to regional words – British words or American words – we also have our own knowledge, being from that area.

“It’s just brilliant to increase our coverage and cover English all around the world because English isn’t just spoken in the UK and America, it’s spoken everywhere, and as a dictionary we need to cover the types of English that people are speaking.

“It’s just a really good opportunity to increase our knowledge.

“We need to reflect the English that’s spoken and written – it’s spoken in South Africa, the Philippines, India, Singapore, Hong Kong – so we need to reflect those varieties.”

Read more: The Telegraph

The Time the Oxford English Dictionary Forgot a Word

When the complete edition of what would become the Oxford English Dictionary debuted in 1928, it was lauded as a comprehensive collection of the English language, a glossary so vast—and so thorough—that no other reference book could ever exceed its detail or depth. In total, the project took seven decades to catalogue everything from A to Z, defining a total of 414,825 words. But in the eyes of its editor James Murray, the very first volume of the dictionary was something of an embarrassment: It was missing a word.

Looking back, it’s impressive that more words were not lost. Assembling the OED was a nightmare. Before the first volume—an installment consisting of words beginning with the letters A and B—was published in 1888, multiple editors had taken (and abandoned) the helm, and each regime change created new opportunities for mayhem. When James Murray took command in 1879, the Oxford English Dictionary could best be defined by the word disarray.

The irony of making this massive reference book was that it required millions upon millions of tiny, tiny pieces of paper. Every day, volunteers mailed in thousands of small strips of paper called “quotation slips.” On these slips, volunteers would copy a single sentence from a book, in hopes that this sentence could help illuminate a particular word’s meaning. (For example, the previous sentence might be a good example of the word illuminate. Volunteers would copy that sentence and mail it to Oxford’s editors, who would review it and compare the slip to others to highlight the word illuminate.)

The process helped Oxford’s editors study all of the shades of meaning expressed by a single word, but it was also tedious and messy. With thousands of slips pouring into the OED’s offices every day, things could often go wrong.

And they did.

Some papers were stuffed haphazardly into boxes or bags, where they gathered cobwebs and were forgotten. Words beginning with Pa went missing for 12 years, only to be recovered in County Cavan, Ireland, where somebody was using the papers as kindling. Slips for the letter G were nearly burned with somebody’s trash. In 1879, the entire letter H turned up in Italy. At one point, Murray opened a bag only to find a family of live mice chewing on the paperwork.

When Murray took over, he tried to right the ship. To better organize the project, he built a small building of corrugated iron called the “Scriptorium.” It resembled a sunken tool shed, but it was here—with the help of 1029 built-in pigeonholes—that Murray and his subeditors arranged, sorted, and filed more than a thousand incoming slips every day. Millions of quotations would pass through the Scriptorium, and hundreds of thousands of words would be neatly organized by Murray’s trusty team.

One word, however, slipped through the cracks.

Read more: Mental Floss

Democratizing the Oxford English Dictionary

The original Oxford English Dictionary, edited by the great lexicographer James Murray, was never meant to be a mere dictionary. Murray wanted to account for every sense of every word in standard English—an astonishingly ambitious aim, given the size and fluidity of the language. The OED’s originators, Murray observed in 1900, were seeking “not merely to record every word that has been used in the language for the last 800 years . . . but to furnish a biography of each word, giving as nearly as possible the date of its birth or first known appearance . . . and the successive changes of form and developments of sense which [each] has since undergone.” The OED was finally completed in 10 bound volumes in 1928, 13 years after Murray’s death and 44 years after the first volume had appeared in 1884. It was an expression, Murray wrote, of “the scientific and historical spirit of the nineteenth century”—or, in other words, of the Victorians’ belief in their capacity to master and catalog every field of human endeavor.

The present state of the OED is in many respects a fulfillment of Murray’s vision. The third edition, begun in the 1990s and available online (revisions are uploaded at regular intervals), is scheduled for completion by 2034, by which time its enormous size will likely make physical publication impossible. The OED3, as it’s called, will attempt to account for every word used anywhere in the Anglophone world for nearly a millennium.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

East Asian words make it into Oxford English Dictionary

Words most commonly heard on the streets of Hong Kong and Singapore such as “yum cha” and “wah” have been included in the Oxford English Dictionary’s latest update.

The terms – a type of Chinese breakfast and an expression of delight, respectively – enter, along with phrases such as “dai pai dong”, “ang moh” and “chilli crab” (an open-air food stall, a light-skinned person, and a regional delicacy).

Other new entries used by English-speakers in east Asia include “compensated dating”, a Hong Kong phrase that refers to a relationship provided in return for cash or gifts, and “Chinese helicopter”, a Singaporean who was educated in Mandarin and has little knowledge of English.

The update to the OED, which styles itself as the definitive record of the English language, includes about 500 new words and phrases from around the world, such as “vlog”, “bro-hug” and “Dad’s Army”.

Read more: The Guardian

Manspreading: how New York City’s MTA popularized a word without actually saying it

New York City, home of Oxford Dictionaries’ New York offices, has made numerous contributions to the English lexicon through the years, as disparate as knickerbocker and hip hop. One of Gotham’s most recent impacts was the popularization of manspreading, defined in the latest update of Oxford Dictionaries as ‘the practice whereby a man, especially one on public transportation, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats.’

The word met our criteria for inclusion by amassing a large amount of evidence in a wide variety of sources, and it did so in a remarkably short period of time. As the chart below shows, evidence of manspreading on Oxford’s New Monitor Corpus, which is used to track the emergence of new words, closely corresponded with the launch of a campaign by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to encourage courteous behavior on the subway — including ending the practice of taking up more than one seat. Evidence of the word manspreading first registered on our tracking corpus in November 2014 when the campaign was first ‘teased’, and the word’s use shot into the stratosphere in December, when the campaign officially launched.

Read more: Oxford Dictionaries Blog

I am neither Mr, Mrs nor Ms but Mx

For the better part of two minutes, I stared down at the form in front of me. I was attending a formal dinner later that week and the RSVP required I choose whether I was “Mr, Mrs or Ms”. I looked at the question and froze, unsure of what to do.

For many people, this choice would’ve caused no anxiety whatsoever. For many people, choosing a title is a simple matter. But for me, picking a title has always been an endeavor fraught with anxiety, confusion and frustration. That’s because I don’t identify as a man or as a woman, I identify as genderqueer.

There are many challenges that arise when you live your life outside of the gender binary like I do. I never know which bathroom to use, I don’t know which section of the store to shop in, and I’m frequently harassed on the street by people who don’t understand my gender identity. Above all of those concerns, the bigger issue that people like me face is that our identities are so rarely taken seriously.

Read More: The Guardian

The top ten most unexpected words added to the online Oxford dictionary

The online Oxford dictionary has added 1,000 new words to its database.

The latest additions have been announced, highlighting the things British people have been talking about in the summer of 2015, such as inconsiderate commuters, solidified waste and unacceptable service charges.

Read more: The Telegraph