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The OED needs you! Announcing the new OED Appeals

3 October 2012

Today the Oxford English Dictionary announces the launch of OED Appeals, a major online initiative that involves the public in tracing the history of English words. Using a dedicated community space on the OED website, editors are soliciting help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English, including the earliest examples of particular words. The website enables the public to post evidence in direct response to OED editors online, fostering a collective effort to record the English language and find the true roots of our vocabulary.

Some of the entries the OED team is initially asking the public’s help with include:
Bellini 
blue-arsed fly
come in from the cold
disco
cooties
in your dreams!

The OED’s expansive record of the history of English has relied on input from the public since its earliest days, from the original Appeal for contributions from ‘a thousand readers’ in 1859, to the popular BBC TV programme Balderdash & Piffle in 2005. The online OED Appeals brings the public into conversation with the dictionary’s professional lexicographers more directly than ever before.

Chief Editor of the OED, John Simpson, explains how the OED Appeals initiative will help the team to revise the OED: “When researching and revising entries, our team of editors use the OED’s famous citation files, gathered over more than a century, as well as the latest digitized databases and Corpus evidence. Nonetheless, the very first recorded usage of many words can be difficult to track down. We can trace certain words and phrases back only so far with conventional tools. An old takeaway menu, a family letter or album, or an obscure journal might hold the key to solving one of those mysteries.”

OED editor Katherine Connor Martin adds, “The OED’s record of the history of English was relying on input from the public more than a century before the term ‘crowdsourcing’ was even coined. James Murray launched an Appeal to the public as far back as 1879, and the OED Appeals continues this long tradition of asking the public for help in our quest to record the origins of our vast, fantastic, ever-changing lexicon. After all, when it comes to the words we read, write, speak, and hear each day, every one of us is an expert.”

Visit the OED Appeals site now to see if you can help

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Video: Senior Editor Fiona McPherson introduces OED Appeals: