Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Spare the “OED”

Following hot on the heels of last week’s horrifying rumors that the 20-volume edition of The Oxford English Dictionary would soon cease to be published in print form come the official denials. This quote appeared in The New Yorker: “Anna Baldwin, an [Oxford University Press] spokesperson, immediately denied that possibility, reassuring anxious logophiles that ‘no decision has yet been made.’ Baldwin added that the ‘demand for online resources is growing but large numbers of people continue to buy dictionaries in printed form.’”

I certainly rank among those folk who like to have a printed dictionary at hand. In fact, I have half a dozen standard dictionaries in book form on top of my desk, as well as a Webster’s Biographical Dictionary (published in 1943) that I inherited from my paternal grandfather. All of these come in handy as I write and edit, and I can’t imagine relying solely on online resources. (After all, my computer isn’t on 24 hours a day.) They also provide great rewards in moments of idle curiosity; not so occasionally, I read on past whatever word I was looking up, hoping to discover other terms that I’ve never come across before.

However, I do turn now and then to online reference sites--especially when I’m trying to decipher slang terms, foreign or domestic.

Which isn’t to say that I have yet parted with $995 to pick up a full set of The Oxford English Dictionary. Right now, it’s all I can do to find room for my multitude of individual works, much less sets of books. But maybe someday, if the OED remains in print ...

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