Sunday, August 29, 2010

The world's greatest dictionary goes all-electronic

The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) have announced that no new edition of the full dictionary will be published on paper.

It was first published 126 years ago and is respected the world over.

But the Oxford English Dictionary will never appear in print again, its owners have announced.

Instead, the 80 lexicographers who have been working on the third edition for the past 21 years have been told the fruits of their labour will exist solely online.

The OED has been available on the internet for the past ten years and receives two million hits a month from subscribers who pay £205 a year, plus VAT, to access it. [In the USA, individual subscribers pay $29.95 per month or $295 on an annual basis.]

Oxford University Press says the dominance of the internet means the latest update to the definitive record of the English language - currently 28 per cent complete - will never be published in print.

'The print dictionary market is just disappearing - it is falling away by tens of per cent a year,' said Nigel Portwood, 44, chief executive of OUP.

'Our primary purpose - and this takes a bit of adjusting to - is not profit, it is the dissemination of knowledge,' he said.

'Print is still pretty important round here but, wherever possible, if there is an opportunity, we are moving out of it.'

The printed dictionary has a shelf life of another 30 years, he predicts.

The third edition is only expected to be completed by 2037.

There's more at the link.

The existing Second Edition of the OED will still be available in a 20-volume printed version (US price $995.00) for the foreseeable future. It's already available online, where it's updated quarterly. I find its Word Of The Day (for which you can sign up via e-mail) to be a fascinating resource, often turning up words I'd never heard of before. I think that US 'fair use' copyright law will allow me to quote the definition of one word out of the over half-a-million defined in the full OED, so here's today's word, Tod:

I. 1. A weight used in the wool trade, usually 28 pounds or 2 stone, but varying locally.

1425 in Kennett Par. Antiq. (1818) II. 250 De xxiii todde lanæ puræ..per le todde ix sol. vi den. 1467 in Eng. Gilds (1870) 384 Custom for euery todd jd. 1542 RECORDE Gr. Artes (1575) 203 In woolle, 28 pounde is not called a quarterne, but a Todde. 1696 Phil. Trans. XIX. 343 Three or four Fleeces usually making a Tod of Twenty eight Pound. 1776 ADAM SMITH W.N. I. xi. (1869) I. 242 One-and-twenty shillings the tod may be reckoned a good price for very good English wool. 1833 Wauldy Farm Rep. 115 in Libr. Usef. Knowl., Husb. III, The agreement is made by the tod, which the dealers have contrived to enlarge to 28 lbs. 1888 Daily News 23 July 2/7 The finest growths of home-grown produce..changing hands at from 23s to 25s per tod.

b. A load, either generally, or of a definite weight.

1530 PALSGR. 281/2 Tode of chese. 1621 FLETCHER Pilgrim III. iv, A hundred crowns for a good Tod of Hay. 17.. Songs Costume (Percy Soc.) 248 There's the ladies of fashion you see..With a great tod of wool on each hip. a1722 LISLE Husb. (1757) 311 [They] allow three tod and an half of hay to the wintering of one sheep. 1863 W. BARNES Poems 3rd Coll. 73 Zoo all the lot o' stuff a-tied Upon the plow, a tidy tod. 1887 ROGERS Agric. & Prices V. 302 Prices of hay and straw... The cwt. and its subdivision, the tod, are the commonest of these exceptional measures. 1889 Devon farmer (E.D.D. s.v. Tad), I've a-got a middlin' tad [load of hay] here, sure 'nough.

fig. 1648 HERRICK Hesper., Conjuration to Electra, By those soft tods of wooll [clouds] With which the aire is full.

II. 2. A bushy mass (esp. of ivy; more fully IVY-TOD, q.v.).

1553 BECON Reliques of Rome (1563) 53b, Our recluses haue grates of yron in their spelunckes and dennes, out of the which they looke, as owles out of an yuye todde. 1592 WARNER Alb. Eng. VII. xxxvii. (1612) 183 Your Ladiship, Dame Owle, Did call me to your Todd. a1619 FLETCHER Bonduca I. i, Men of Britain Like boading Owls, creep into tods of Ivie. 1626 BACON Sylva §588 Some [trees] are more in the forme of a Pyramis, and come almost to todd; As the Peare-Tree. 1709 Brit. Apollo II. No. 73. 3/1 What Tod of Ivy hath so long conceal'd Thy Corps? 1908 Outlook 4 Jan. 4/2 Ivy tods were covered with pollen in Christmas week and the smaller gorse is flowering freely.

III. 3. attrib. or Comb. {dag}tod-wool, clean wool made up into tods.

1636 Minute Bk. Exeter City Chamber 5 Apr. (MS.), The weighing and sale of all toddwooll, rudge-washt wooll, and fleecewooll, and unwashed wooll.

Meat and drink for bibliophiles!



Virtual Linguist said...

Online resources have many shortcomings compared to print editions. For instance, type in 'hats' in the OED's search box and it tells you there's no such word; type in 'cats' and you're taken directly to the 'catmint' page (because cats-mint is an alternative spelling). More reasons why I won't be throwing away my collection of traditional dictionaries here:

Anonymous said...

Typical solution reached by bean counters whose work typically has zero relationship to the real world other than in terms of how cheapy can we produce our product.