Former OED editor covertly deleted thousand of words, book claims

An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors, according to claims in a book published this week.

Robert Burchfield’s efforts to rewrite the dictionary have been uncovered by Sarah Ogilvie, a linguist, lexicographer and former editor on the OED.

Ogilvie worked for 11 years to research and write Words of the World, published by Cambridge University Press, which challenges the widely held belief that editors of the OED between 1884 and 1933 were Anglocentric Oxford dons obsessed with preserving the Queen’s English, and that it was not until Robert Burchfield’s four supplements, produced between 1972 and 1986, that the dictionary was opened up to the wider world.

"I observed a pattern, that actually it was the earlier editors who were dealing with words in a really enlightened way. They certainly weren’t these Anglocentric, judging kind of editors – they were very sensitive to cultural differences and they seemed to be putting in a lot of foreign words and a lot of words from different varieties of English, which must have been amazing for that day when colonial varieties of English were just emerging," said Ogilvie.

She undertook a detailed analysis of Burchfield’s supplement, comparing it with the 1933 supplement by Charles Onions and William Craigie. She found that, far from opening up the OED to foreign linguistic influences, Burchfield had deleted 17% of the “loanwords” and world English words that had been included by Onions, who included 45% more foreign words than Burchfield.

» via The Guardian


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