The NYT on the OED‘s new Chief Editor

For all the tech talk, certain analog ways linger at the dictionary, notably in the Quotes Room, a repository of word citations on little slips of paper, many mailed in decades ago by volunteers around the world, the most prolific of whom are identified by their distinctive handwriting and referred to fondly by editors: “That’s a Laski,” or “This one’s from Collier in Australia.”

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“We can hear everything that’s going on in the world of English for the last 500 years, and it’s deafening,” said the associate editor Peter Gilliver, who once spent nine months revising definitions for the word “run,” currently the longest single entry in the O.E.D.

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The objective is to find the earliest and most illustrative uses of a word, not to grant benediction to anything as “proper English.” Each time commentators rebuke the O.E.D. for admitting teenage slang or marketing jargon, they misunderstand the dictionary, which aims not to define how language should be used, only how it is.

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