9.285 review of new dictionaries

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 10 Nov 1995 21:23:56 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 285.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca> (48)
Subject: have another aginda on me

In the TLS for 3 November, no. 4831, is a delightful review of new
dictionaries, "Soothe your fagony with aginda: New dictionaries and the
irresistible self-renewal of the English language" by Paul Dean (Head of
English at Portsmouth Grammar School). He reviews the following:

David Crystal, ed., The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language
N. E. Osselton, Chosen Words: Past and present problems for dictionary makers
Della Thompson, ed., The Concise Oxford dictionary of current English,
ninth edition
Judy Pearsall and Bill Trumble, eds., The Oxford English reference dictionary
J. M. Sinclair, et al., eds., Collins English dictionary, updated third

Is this about computing? Yes, of course, at least in part. I quote the
opening paragraph:

> In the section on dictionaries in David Crystal's magnificent
> Encyclopedia of the English Language, there is a photograph of James
> Murray and his assistants in the Scriptorium, the ramshackle hut in which
> the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled. Meeting
> Murray's confident stare, one wonders how he would have reacted to the
> revolution wrought in lexicography by computer technology, as
> exemplified by three of its latest beneficiaries. Electronic databases such
> as the COBUILD "Bank of English" enable the dictionary to mirror
> linguistic change with more rapidity and accuracy than ever before,
> while the printed book itself is now produced with a sophistication until
> recently unimaginable. Of course, both these advantages have downsides
> (a word duly recorded in all three dictionaries under review):
> contemporaneity may beget ephemerality, and visual attractiveness a
> too-"busy" ("overcrowded with detail" - Collins) page. That is one of the
> few reservations I have, in fact, about Crystal's book. Aesthetic
> considerations, after all, do survive even in the Age of the Screen.

Dean reports that following a short radio programme given by Crystal, he was
deluged with neologisms, among which were <i>fagony</i> ("smoker's cough")
and <i>aginda</i> ("a pre-conference drink"). Indeed, numerous agindas could
offset the unpleasant effects of the not-so-hidden agendas at those
conferences we attend out of duty or by compulsion.


Willard McCarty, Centre for Computing in the Humanities
Departments of Classical Studies and Italian Studies (Toronto)
(416) 978-3974 voice (416) 978-6519 fax mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca