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tv   The Word Detective  CSPAN  December 17, 2016 4:30pm-5:31pm EST

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state -- [laughter] tell him you had your heart set on agriculture, okay? [laughter] [applause] because woe be unto whoever gets this job, okay? to me, it's like russian roulette. all right? because managing weakness, managing state collapse, they all think it was because obama was a wimp. oh, they're now going to discover that managing weakness is hell on wheels. i better stop here. so we're going to sign books after. thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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>> booktv is on twitter and facebook, and we want to hear from you. tweet us, or or post a comment on our facebook page, [inaudible conversations] >> hello, everyone. thank you so much for coming out tonight. my name is david, i'm a part of the event staff here, and on behalf of the staff and our owners, it's our honor to well i don't mean cow -- welcome you to
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hold politics & prose to host john simpson. .. >> page your way there. when you have a question so we can have it recorded, so you can see yourself on tv and be famous. that's the only reason. anyway, after the even is over, if you will help us, we put the book store back together, so if you take your chair and fold it
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up, it will be a great help. also, the books are available to purchase at the cash register and then after the eventes over the signing will immediately follow. so, can you drink a glass of balderdash? what do you call the part of a dog's back they can't a crash and if you find yourself in serendip where are you? the answers can be found in the oxford english dictionary, and that's better guide than john simpson. the word detective, an intensely personal memoir and a joyful celebration of english he weaves a story how words come into being and disappear, huh how culture shapes the way we speak. reviews says of the book, it's a
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witty memoir from a dictionary ed for who says his not a word lover. john simpson was the chief editor and he managed the doingization of the dictionary and initiateed the third edition scheduled for completion in 2037. overseeing some 20 editors. john is an emeritus fellow and writes on literary and -- runs thepitsville history works project. join me in becoming john simpson. [applause] block look. >> good evening. i maybe walking down the street in london. never been filmed so many times i haven't got a publisher with me today.
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i've invented a publisher to introduce me. he is hugo, a sort of amalgam of what publishers used to be like in old days. he is called hugo. welcome to everyone. i'm delighted that so many people have come continue to celebrate the publication of john's book. much of which i've already read on the train. i'd like to ask john a few questions before the word "detective" and i hope those who have not read it will gain an impression why i'm told we're so keep to pressure it. john, you spent many years working on the oxford english dictionary. why did you write this memoir? then hands it over to me. >> i wrote "the word detective"
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because i read so many books of history of the oed and the problems when the editor and the publishing staff, and difficulties getting things together. it's massive book, massive project, but that misses the fun of writing, documenting the history of words, which is what it's all about. all i was trying to do was to enenthuse people to enjoy writing flint the history and researching the history of their language. people ask how i came to write the book and it's pretty straightforward. about six months before i left the university press in oxford in 2013, for some reason, the press department at oup put out a press release to say i was leavingment i think they were messed. didn't know why they did this.
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they put out a press release and newspaper got ahold of it and they ran stories like word detective leaves after 37 yearsing. that's where i got the idea of wow the word detective." and then i did various interview, "time magazine" did an interview for me, and that as instrumental interview. a question and answer, and it actually was interesting. so many journalists come along to the oedy and come along with preconceptions of us in long white beards, all male, and we spend our time staring at our disks and writing out little index cards with definitions. that's somewhat true but it's a stereo type of lex agoography. and a few days later i got
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aphone call from david couldn't, new york literary agent, saying i thought you were quite interestinged a you came over in the "time magazine" piece. do you think there's any point in thinking about writing a book about your experience on the dictionary? and if so, maybe we can take the rights and publish it. i said, well, i'm far too busy at the moment. six months to go, very, very important work. let's talk when i finish stop six months later i was out the door and i thought, well, let's give this a try, see if we can actually make dictionary work sound fun to people. the stereotypes of some that have dogged me throughout my 37-40 years on the oedy and in the introduction to the book i wrote a little piece about the sort of stereotyping get in books and films. i was talking about the
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excitement of writing dictionaries. this is a very specific kind of excitement. it's different from the knock about excitement portrayed in ball of fire, my favorite film about reference books. i used to play a few minutes of the comedy to groups of summer coolers i taught years ago. i expect they thought it was the best part of the course. gary cooper was gram marian, in a team of editors engaged in noble task of writing an encyclopedia. the professors led quiet lives. and in particular, they are unfamiliar with the vocabulary of jive talk and the hep cats. and gary cooper discovered barbara stanwyck. and he and his fell e fellow editors rather took a shine to her. they sneak out at night to
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listen to her vocabulary in nightclubs so they say. gary cooper is asked for slang for the encyclopedia, and surgery pusses riecksed rescued by the editors. we never knowingly end employed anyone called "sugar puss" but there's a stayowtype but indicate this excitement i felt in the work when i was working there. so in the book there are sort of four main aspect is wanted to draw into it. originallyn't wades to write other book that was just a book of digressions about words, the interesting thing is find out about words. the dictionary have to comment on words on the side. they don't confront it head on. you're always looking at streak aspects -- looking at how people
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use words in the past. trying to sort of push-den who read a sentence from a 17th 17th century to text you're trying to push it out of shape to help you understand the definition of the actual word you're working on. a strange way of looking at things but i like to look at things sideways rather than front on. wanted to talk about the language, how it's changed over time. the brown of the book is more or less startes when apply for a job on the dictionary and finishes more or less today. so i had lovely time doing whatever in school, and my first girlfriend or anything like thatment unfortunately, maybe i'll be -- prequel, but it's starts with applying for a job and finding the job on the dictionary and how guy from there. a bit about my life, my friends, friends at the dictionary, friends outside the dictionary,
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my family. so i enter weave that with boxes out words. take a word like pair -- paraphernalia, and 101 in college and track the history of that over time. as far as the oed is able to. so i have a view that any word in the language is interesting if you just spend five minutes to do research about and it then write it up. so, let's talk about the words and language and the time ahead of the dictionary, how we bent from the dictionary in book form to the dictionary on computer, which is what it is now and how we were opening up access to people to read the dictionary by putting it online over a long period.
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john, that is a very -- this is hugo again. that's a very convincing answer. when i read the odd passage from the book on the train i was surprised at the informality of the style. can you talk about how you confronted writing about a very formal and revered document, and perhaps you might read a short section to give us a flavor of the book. well, when i first joined the oed in 1976 i hadn't been at oxford before. i'd been at york, studying english, and oxford was quite a forbidding place. i think at the time oxford scholarship this dictionary was something that was held in awe and quite difficult for them, especially new editors, to unravel that to unpick that. to see through what was actually there, what we were trying to do. we were just trying to explain the meaning and the history of words.
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so, part of the first years i was there was really getting myself into what the dictionary was trying to do and sort of becoming less in awe of it. i think all the staff when they joined went through this procedure. to show you -- to give you some idea what it was like and as a new editor, i thought i'd read a bit from the book about my first interview at the university press. i'd been living in redding, about 50 miles away, and i was doing an ma there in medieval studies. didn't think it would fit me for too much in the world but i found it did, which was great, because we always find -- often find that people with a medieval background are pretty well suited to looking at words, both back from the medieval period into the old english period and
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up to the present day. if you only have a history of knowing about language in 19th 19th century, you find it more difficult to deal with 16th, 17th, century medieval, so it is in the end turned out to be useful to have that background. i'd been called to interview, and the university press porter let me into the grand quadrangle or quad. before i had a chance to reach the lawn i was trended off to one side. you didn't get to experience the full splendor of the place unless you deserved it. where i found the personnel department and my recent correspondent, the colonel. the colonel was a human face of the personnel department of oed and was a delightful military chap, retired, of course, and something of a leftover when soldiers ruled personnel. almost certainly -- a character actor willford hyde white.
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colonel pickering of my fair lading. short, balding, military. we shook hands and then he sank into his seat winds a substantial desk while i was directed towards an easy chair designed principally to make you feel like you're not the most important person in the world. we talk about the university press, and we wondered jointly how easy i might find it moving from reading to oxford shy be offered the opportunity. the distancing 25 miles, but i discovered much later the people in oxford who thought civilization ended just few hundred dread feet outside the city walls. others said the sun rises and sets over worcester college. wouldn't me much point in referring to the city of worcester. so i have any little interview with him and then he then takes me around to the dictionary state and i meet the chef editor and i discover why got the job or not.
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you can see i'm trying not a to write the sort of book where you go from getnote to footnote, discussing the particular policies and all that sort of thing. was really just trying to write an approachable, i hope, reason my entertaining book about the -- my time at the oed. we'll get to words in a few minutes. john -- this is me. it's not somebody else, actually. that's a very convincing answer. it's great when you're in charge of your script. i'm told by me editors as a word detective you intersperse snips about english. it's try. i wanted to do was to take words -- so many books about language take the sort of well-known examples of words and
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take you through them. if you read any history of english, you'll find descriptions of the words in all the other hoyts of english. what i wanted to do is when i had written something and if i saw a word in the paragraph i had just written that i thought was of interest, i'd check it in the oed, check what the story was, and then just write it out for my perspective. but with the facts in oed so on the one hand i was showing you the detail that the oed holds and also trying to approach it in a way that was readable. this is quite a difficult dictionary to read sometimes. if you are not familiar with it. and this is an example of one of the little books i had for the word "transpire." i don't know if your aware of the origin but i have 60 word boxes that describe individual words, so if you'll go with me with this, we'll see what happens to "transpire."
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i've got one on -- i don't know -- omnibus and bus. all sorts of things. they're quite fun. in the mid to late 18-inch century the word transpire cause node end of arguments between otherwise healthy individuals. people think the word should mean what they used to mean and any deviation is heresy. but somehow still related in its origin to the latin for ignorant and logic is argument over words. transpire, or at lease its aged ewith his has a meeting in classical latin but english speakers have, to use a technical word, mangled this. the word transpire is from the 16th century and derived from laten, transpiry, to breathe, inspiration, spirit, so you expect it to mean something to do with transmission by
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breathing. here's how the oed views the old meaning. call to pace in a state of vapor through to the walls of century of to body, and give out waste matter through the body and the skin. that's the old meaning of the word, what we now think of as transspire. as we move through the 17th 17th century the range of context in which the term could be applied changed. liquids passing from inside to in or inside to houston. turns out to be an emerging word and was heading for stardom. the first hiccup on the road to immortality occurred in 1748. it concerns lord chesterfield who as a style leader later annoyed the dr. johnson by withdrawing support on his proposed dictionary when the overlord realize it was veering offplan. i i.e. johnson within inching
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nearer to to perfection. in 1748, lord chesterfield, despite his general qualms on language change, decided to use the word "transpire" in a figurative way. when writing to his correspondents. he wrote: this letter goes to powo in that confidence i play in you and you will they ever not let one word of is transpire. absolutely nothing with that should you find things wrong with language. and the french have developed this. >> host: in the 18th century. what lord chester fields was saying was that you don't want one wedder of the contents of his letter to permeate from private state to public view. the transseparation to metaphorral is easy, but when he came to address the word his dictionary, dr. joinson found
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this shift too mump. innovated from france without necessity. what happened next, though, set language periods into a deep clear line. ordinarying to the oed an american lady, abigail adams, who is credited with writing in 1775 to her husband of the continental congress in philadelphia, there's nothing new transpired since i wrote you last. i'm sure others used it in his way before she did but at the moment she has all the credit. language purists heated the new manying to occur, to happen. what known permeation or at least on permeation and transmigration of the loosest variety in the sense of something moving from one state -- nothing happening -- to another state -- something happening. organic change like this should not happen. the thought it might be an americanism -- the americanisms are not top of anyone's dance card in britain.
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made the usage less popular in britain. the first edition of the oedy in the letter are t from the easterly-year-old 20th 20th century, despairs. it is a misuse. the dictionary offers some assistant, evidently arising from misunderstandings such as a sentence, what had transpired during his absence he did not know. which is a confusioning way of explaining something. it is dorfing the youage the oe dewas filing in the footstepped of earlier lex agographer, writing this noble use of the word is common in neutz and not uncommon in england, thought i it has been censored as improper. he doesn't seem to mind so much it transpires. i have to transpire.
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the one question i'm always asked and have been asked every day since 1976 when i first joined the dictionary, how does a new word get into the dictionary. and in the old days, before the internet, we had a stock answer and said to people, if we have in our card files five examples of a word or sense of a word, spanning a five-year time span, then we consider putting it into the dictionary. then the internet came long and that was bren do blown out of the window because we had misspellings. we're not trying to prescribe how people should use the language. we're trying to say, this is how it's used. here is the evidence that shows how it's used. but we will sometimes say this is nonstandard if we think maybe people need to be warned off using it in front of their maiden aunts or something.
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so, new word nowdays find their way into the oed or any other big national dictionary probably looking for several thousand 20,000, 2,030,000 hits on google, for example, but we don't just use a checklist. we use databases and criteria and have a balancing act of whether we put in air quotes or not definitions as an expression, or air guitar or whatever. so we are looking at all sorts of sources but in general a word has to be in widespread use by the -- either in widespread common use or widespread use win a particular science, physics or geographyy or something. 0 answer nit the oed it stays there. the dictionary doesn't throw things out. the first edition of the dictionary was 10 volumes long and that was completed in 1928. but the ten volumes were too
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bulky so that immediately was rebound in a reissue as 12 volumes. we then prepared a one-volume supplement which expanded into four volumes so by then we had 16 volumes. we then produced a second edition of the dictionary in 1989, with new material, which was then 20 volumes, and then we went through the process of working out whether we could digitize it. but i'll get to that inmont. so new words -- theirs a nice new word "skanking" which we put into the dictionary. think in the 1990s, it's a kind of carribean dance, the skank, and i don't know whether you know it or anyone wants to demonstrate it. but i came up -- we come up -- we had a lot of index cards for
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the word and sent in by rathers around the world, which is how we collected information. nowdays they tend to -- they're encouraged to send it in electronically so it gets into a massive database. so we had enough evidence of the word skanking to to put it into the dictionary. we didn't at the time have a popular culture consultant. i thought that was me when i first joined the dictionary at the age of 24. i was the eyes and ears on the streets and i didn't know what waits, even though i had taken a great interest in was to fairannism -- rasta fairannism and i got ahold of out of the weigh neglects and read them, and carded them and put the index cards in hour files so unexpecting editors would find them and have to put these words
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into the dictionary but never worked because they had perfectly good wives collectingings in. so i happened to be on a video program -- no, television program in london with a british performance artist. but he's well-known in the uk, so i thought i'll make myself unpopular as we often do by asking him to define the word "to skank" or "skanking" for me. he gave me a funny look. as people often do and you have to be used to it if you're a lexicographer. he said i can't tell you what it means. i thought maybe he didn't want to tell -- to let this term from caribbean seep out and be open to the whole world. the didn't have. the -- never thought about it before and didn't have immediately on the tip of his
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fingers the vocabulary he needed for "skanking." he said next time he was in oxford, he was forming the other side of oxford, probably, he would come to the office and would "sank" for me and i could get also note pad out and write the definition. so he did. but a month later i got a phone call saying i'm performing in bristol or somewhere and i'll come through oxford and i'll sank for you in your office. didn't tell anybody else at the dictionary this was going on because i thought i might get taken upstairs and put into a locked room. he came along and we cleared an area in front of my desk. and it was looking out on to one of the main streets into oxford. if you're going past at the time you had a festival display of it. we cleared an area and he stood there and a little bit embarrassed to start with.
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i'm not west indian. so -- but eventually he pot into and started sanking and he said it's a bit like cleaning windows and he got into it and i was scribbling down what thought it was all be and trying to do sort of pat tents and that sort of thing. eventually he stopped, exhausted, and probably bit embarrassed and he toed do his real performance for the day and left me with the job of writing the definition. the first and only time i've ever actually asked someone come in to demonstration a edition e definition. but the definition is in the dictionary now. you can look at it. and that was how one of the new words goes into the dictionary. hugo: john, very convincing answer. the we can all know the story
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how the only oed was written, from books, elizabeth murray's caught in the web of words, and "making of the oed, recent book about he history of the oed to the present but you were there when the decision was taken to put the oedy online in how did that come about? >> well, originally putting the o -- the idea of putting the oed on line in the 1980s, was -- we didn't know where the dictionary was going to do. it was a printed dictionary. we produced -- just about finished processing a 25-year project for a supplement to the dictionary. we produced these four volumes. didn't have the hard to do another set of supplements on top of these supplements and it was a nightmare, would the oed
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be left toes illize -- fossilize. and some had the idea that this new fang eled technology in computers could do something for the dictionary. the idea that maybe that will help us if we could manage to put the dictionary on to computer, maybe that would be the future of it. it was very, very risky project at the time. we were one of -- we were one of the standard generalized market of language of the people who managed the standard coding for these little things and we were one of this pet projects ball we were such a big project. we're not big data these days but we were at the time. so, we were very popular amongst academic researchers, as a guinea pig.
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all at the same time a human jean nome project and big ideas how we can understand language if we put the oed on a computer and it will solve our problems. never really worked but we wouldn't tell them at the time elm maybe it wouldn't. we then developed the project to put at the dictionary on computer. there's a nice little bit in here about what we were losing by doing that. one event that happened at this time in mid-80s, that symbolized two things. firstly the way were shuffling off the old ways of printing and a worrying attitude held in part of oxford towards the icons of the past. two of my colleague and me joined one of the educationam
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visits made from time to time by oxnard -- oxford editors in those days the oldest printing machine was two stories tile but the massive -- sheet after sheet. it was a very impressive site. swept bibi the new technology. we were walking with our group long a narrow coroner when we came across an old man throwing squares of metal into a roaring furnace. on further investigation, it appeared this was not some job creation scheme but part of the recycling initiative. huge store rooms had been stocked with the printing plates them plates were worn and were recycled to be melted down and reused.
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to our alarm, discovered that the heavy copperplates that the old man was committing to the inferno were printing plates to print the oed, needless to say jed and i were horrified by what seem be to the wilful destruction of the dictionary's history. our commercial directar was also shocked as he shared our concerns and cheerly lamented the loss of the revenue this down room of the oe ds heritage would resip tate. we halted the burning. some carted others one. but the use of the word inferno there initiates me going into word box about the word "inferno." it's a word that came literature through dante's inferno.
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we already lad the word infernal from french so we sort of knew what inferno was. but the word inferno doesn't fights its way into english except the reference to doon att the's -- donte's work in the 18th century. think i have to be quiet soon. i got -- various things could i say but i think probably the best thing to do is if i don't. john. there's a very convincing answer. all good things must come to an end. your closing paragraph, perhaps. >> this is only a paragraph so very short. it's about what happens to me, my family, after i stop work on
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the oed do we do now. i'm just working on various protects about the past and rerunning them for a new age online. it took me a while to realize that was what i liked doing best and best at. not everyone has the patience but then henry says i'm an ordinary bloke who has been lucky enough to do an extraordinary job. she was probably right. she usually is. thank you. [applause] now believe if anyone has any questions, they are you are welcome to ask me. >> could you go to the dib may be difficult -- if you say your
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question,ll rye pete it. >> few funding of the oed. >> who funds the -- >> in the future. >> the question who is funding the oed and in the future. it won't be that. it's entirely funded by the university press in oxford. oub is the largest university press in the world. it has been able in the past to fund the editorial work on the oed which still, even though it's now online, it doesn't make money. doesn't lose money as much as it did in the past. we had sort of government funding for the computerization project, hundreds of thousands of pounds 'but that was for a very specific project so essentially funds by the university press for the benefit of scholarship. >> there are other modern
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language that's something like the oed. >> the question is are there a modern huangs who something like the oed. the answer is, i would say, no, but the answer is, yes. the french, example, have the -- not quite the same as the oed. it's multivolume. it was originally part of a major project to -- have dictionaries of different periods of the language but in fact, what they've done is produced a dictionary from the 18th century up to the present day, but with dealing with etymologies right back to the earlier period so there's a very good comprehensive dictionary of english. in oed started in 1884, started publishing in 1884 and completed in 1928, which is 44 years later. it wasn't the first of the big historical national historical projects to start.
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the first was the grim's dictionary and that goes back to the 18 oh -- 1840s. people always think the editors of the oed must work very slowly to take 44 years to write a book. the grimms dictionary started in 1848 and was completed in 1960. and that is -- they did some great work but the difference is that their articles are rather more discussed. the oed is very structured and very logical. and you can see the logical development of words very easily if you know how to read the dictionary. the grimm dictionary took 110 years to complete. they then started on five years later on a revision. but you can't really revise something easily that is the work of four generations of editors which is the case with the grimms, and so actually the
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moment that -- the update project was founded. a big spanish dictionary project that started -- took about 30 years getting through the letter "a" and then put that in mothballs baas is -- because it was too expensive. the oed was -- the guys that put tolling the original policy for the oed were can can but -- can so you bring your editor. those digs dictionary -- spaniel dictionary was national project, funds by the spanish government. they've now started a much dish with much more perspective which
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much more product which might become a national dictionary. more norwegian and swedessish dictionary, us a centrallan national dictionary, one volume, but the language from captain cook up to the present day. just the second edition of that come out. so there are national dictionaries throughout the english and french, spanish, speaking world. but i like to think that the oed has something on many of them. the dutch dictionary actually took longer than the grimms dictionary to complete. they say they're the biggs dictionary in the world but i don't believe them. >> chinese? >> the isn't a chinese or japanese dictionary and would like there to be one so they're -- korea, for example, where people are looking at the possibilities of doing it.
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but it's matter of some alarm that they haven't got a dictionary like the oed. the lady in the middle. >> who decides what is nonstandard and also, when you have a word like "concerning" which is now increasingly being used instead of worrying, drive mist nuts. is that labeled a slang or -- so two separate questions. nonstandard and then once identified as slang. >> so who -- how are -- who guys whether a word is nobody standard or not,' -- nonstandard or and not how do you determine whether a word should be labeled as slang or is standard english. nonstandard, standard, we really
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going from the evidence. from the genres of the tex in which a word is found. so if aword is only found 0 on the internet and used in informal conversation, and it's never found in formal discourse, that will help us both with the issue of whether it's nonstandard or whether it is language or colloquial. so we just looking at the context. if a word is never dish is only used regionally, then we're likely to say its nonstandard. if it's only used -- if it's a nope term that people -- style purists correct and there's an issue about, then we might indicate that is nonstandard or -- but the concept of standard is rick because it changes through generations and over the years. so a chalk in the language --
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the verb "to finalize "in the 1920s was very much disliked in the uk because it was an americanism. and i it was not liked -- star guide said it was not the word to use. we would have said was nonstandard at the time but nowdays nobody has any idea it was american originally. and it takes about maybe dish tend to think it takes 50 years for something to work through the generations to become fully accepted. and for people to forget where i came from. one problem in the book is that people forget people about language and i'm trying to remind them about curious facts that helps your understand of the word. so there is this long period of time in which the older generation will use one occupy tough word ask the younger generation will delve now ones and the older generation say that's slapping, and younger people say we ite all the time and it's not slang so it's
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balancing act. and it's only easier on the internet than in the book you. print a book, they forever. we can review things, continually a dynamic database. >> yep? >> i'd like to good back to historical question. on at the french -- >> speak into the microphone, please. >> excuse me. >> he said. >> in french historical dictionary, do they reference the historical examples? for example, in the oed, when the oed takes a reference from the king james 1611 bible, they put chapter and verse. do the french do that? >> yes. they do for the 18th century
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on warded. the question does a friend fresh dictionary give chapter and verse for examples and the answer when way gave an example they give chapter and verse but not as many examples also the oed so maybe one example, maybe the first example they've got for a particular use so they don't have anything like as much documentation as the oed, three-quarters of the oedy is game the rest is etymology and pronunciation and definition, et cetera. >> -- the yorkshire -- >> there was a project in the owned of the 19th center under when way were laughing everything when all the comes in england had our own glossary of
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words and they are a malaga mated into the english style university at the university of oxford who was working alongside of sir james murray. they lived down the same road. so there is -- i am -- not my family comes from yorkshire, and so when my father moved south, he brought various york shire terms with women which were used in surrey. he was using his own father's words. that's what everybody does and that's how language regional words are disbursed around the country. one 0 two -- obviously happened when english dialect was -- the english language came to america and when people went in the 18th century to australia.
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there's a common verb in australia, to fosic to hunt around for something, know it toes taken over to australia from britain north an original wordment but the only evidence in britain was three different counties and so it's one offers these words that has been taken possibly by one or two people who went across, either as settlers are transport years to australia and the word somehow stuck there, maybe became used in mining or something. and so it is interesting to see how things flower in different places where you don't expect it and that's all -- that is why we try to collect information from all around the world to cover the english language. >> -- [inaudible] >> i was just wondering you could talk about how you gather your expertise through the reading program, who the readers are, who your experts are, and i
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had another question, just separate from that but if you think there's such a thing as a temperment for a a lex cogoffer. >> the first question is -- >> your reading programs. >> reader. >> a massive network. >> in the old days, the readers were less sured gentleman and they're lady wives. a lot of clergymen, wives, people who that -- which we don't have these days so we have a different type of -- we have two types. readers who aren't on a reading program, and paid for what they produce. we havers who send things in for the love outle and some people
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just send thing inside because they want to contribute to the history of the language, produce the best stuff we get. and -- >> welcome. >> we appeal to them sometimes but people just have this itch to contribute. it's like a crowd sourcing to some extent. and are they the type of person? often the people that want to help or want to be lexicographers aren't the right people. i say in the book that a lot of the -- sometimes we have -- we tend not to appoint linguists. you think on a dictionary you would want to appoint ling linguists. we have people who hand aware in of language and analytical ability and interested in a wide range of things, sometimes people who want to become
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lexicographers don't necessarily have the sort of broadness of touch that we would like. the readers is much the same. they can be an eclectic lot, an awkward people. >> i'm one of them. >> okay. so, you are possibly one thief words. >> i work on the srp. >> okay, yeah. right. >> the scholarly reading program the reading program is for the more academic types because we are asking you to read secondary literature and provide information that scholars have produced about the word. we also have a historical reading program where peopled asked to read 17th, 18th 18th century texts and they have a different awareness, an awareness of -- we don't want the our files flooded with lots of examples to con contemplate
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because something things it's an interesting usage. so for that sort of reading, historical redding you want people with an awareness of lodge in a particular time -- language in a particular time. everybody has to be practical and quite obsessive, and everybody has to be ready to be wrong. are you any of those things? okay. that's good. >> i was on the narp as well. >> right. >> but srp was the best fit. the etymologist. >> the north american reading program which we set up in 1989 is the first time we actually started collecting information on computer rather than on index cards so. we didn't know whether -- things we do we don't know if they're going bork or not but that's the only way to good forward. so that was an exciting time. >> the era of texting and twitter, and this sort of contractions or abbreviations.
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one of them is bff, best friend forever. is that included in the digs dictionary? >> the most well-known lol, for example, is in the dictionary. we have no objection to including them because they're linguistic marks. they're word, part of the language. so no reason they shouldn't be there. we have to balance what we've got time to do, so whether it's worth adding a whole series of abbreviations in preference to new developments in chemistry, example, we have to balance where our time is. there are more words than even the oed has room for. but, yeah, there's no rope why they shouldn't be in. it's not -- we say, oh, dreadful use of language -- hugo would.
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but i don't. >> come back to you. >> ever take a position on grammar? i'm hearing even supposedly educated broadcasters use phrases like you and i. and it should be you "and me." >> we don't take positions but we take -- we monitor it. we say -- we're trying to showup -- we let other people take positions. it's not really our job to stand up and say you must do this and mustn't do that. we're not gram marians. but we say this is the documentary evidence we found for this use as opposed for you and i as oppose told you and me in particular context. so we're trying to illustrate what there is rather than say something is right or wrong but we indicate that one is
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nonstandard, but we don't get on sour soap box and tell people off for it. >> how many words there are in the to english language? >> just let me start. hang on, one -- you shouldn't really read anything to what anyone says about words. there are about 686,000 words in the compounds in oed. that's not english today an but get to bang to the old english period and it's around the world. so, you could say there are almost a million. on the other hand a web site has been tracking words and they came irtheir millionth word several years ago, but how many word decide you use in everyday speech? you can't really even brief those words. people say you might know 20,000 and use 40,000. other people say you might
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know -- double that. so no way of getting into scour brain to work it out so don't believe anything like that. i don't think. >> time for one more. >> i'm interested in the management, the administration of such a complex project. you're the boss. >> i'm the chief editor. >> did you hire and fire? did things come to your office, like, standard and nonstandard, and people were arguing about and it nobody else could solve? what ended up in your office? >> you mean -- let me remind myself. yeah, i started off as a basic editor so i was given my bundle of index cards in those days and had to work through the right definitions in con justification of our research in libraries, couple of washington library researchers in the audience today and if you have very difficult questions i'll pat
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them on to them. -- pass them on to them. so, you have to be able to do the basic editing, and as you get more experience you oversee other editors but you also have to do -- final it yourself. never wanted to get myself involved in administration in terms of running the project. thought if you're working on the oed you should work on the oed and you should dem demonstrate -- we have 75 editors and thought person in charge august to be seen to be doing real editorial work. so i always did that rather than spending time in meetings and -- i got various times more or less involved in budgets and things but i don't seem to get them right. they just seem to be happy to let go into words. >> thank you so much for coming tonight. [applause]
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>> ' you can purchase a copy of the book and we'll start the signing line around the table. [inaudible conversations] >> here's a look at the current besting selling nonfiction books according to the "washington post." topping the list, fox news host bill oreilly and recount america's defeat of japan during world war ii in "killing the rising sun." it's followed by "the magnolia story" and actress memoir," talking as fast as i can ."
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next, settle for more,ing me gibb kelly details her personal life and career. and bruce springsteen remembers his life and music in "born to run." our look at the best selling nonfiction books continues with the rereflections on grope up in and moving away from the appalachian region in "hillbilly elology" followed by tim tebow's shaken, and hamilton, the script of the pulitzer prize and tony winning broadway musical. next, bernie sanders recalls his experiences during the democratic primary and shares his thoughts on current social issues called "our revolution" and them thomas freedman's thoughts on how technology and globalization have affected our lives in" thank you for being late." a lock at best selling knock fiction books.


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