A look back on our 90th anniversary celebrations

A look back on our 90th anniversary celebrations

With the ink freshly dried on the final pages of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, an extraordinary mission begun over 60 years prior to compile a comprehensive record of the English language, the edition’s co-chief editor Charles Onions hailed 1928 as ‘the Year of the Dictionary’.

Ninety years on, we have celebrated this colossal achievement of the edition’s many contributors with many wonderful contributions from our own editors, ambassadors, and the general public – both to the festivities and the dictionary itself.

The ninetieth anniversary campaign has seen over 5,000 new word suggestions contributed through four OED Appeals, hundreds of schools bringing the OED and our teaching resources into classrooms worldwide, explorations into the OED archives to uncover stories of the dictionary’s past, behind the scenes in our Meet the Editors series, what it means to read for the OED through the eyes of the dictionary’s readers, as well as interviews, articles, illustrations, games, and even several cakes created in honour of the OED’s birthday.

Celebrating the OED‘s first edition with cake!

In this blog post, we’d like to share just a few of our favourite moments from the festivities of the past 12 months…

In true OED fashion, we kicked off the celebrations with a call for more words – and people all over the world answered! The first of four OED Appeals, Words Where You Are, sought to identify and record the words, phrases, and expressions particular to a town, city, region, or even country that are second nature to its inhabitants but may be baffling to visitors.

We have already published entries for several of the suggestions from this appeal and our editors shared a look at their work on hammajang, a Hawaiian regionalism meaning ‘in a disorderly or shambolic state’, and munted a New Zealand word meaning ‘ruined, spoiled, damaged’ that was adopted by the UK rave scene of the 1990s, in this appeal update post.

Our next appeal, Hobby Words, sought to gather the words and phrases used by people when talking about a shared hobby or pastime that, again, tend to be little-known to outsiders. We received hundreds of submissions concerning hobbies as varied as bell ringing and scuba diving, quilting and amateur radio, and in this blog post we take a look at everything from UFOs to DXing.

Our two most recent appeals, Youth Words and Words at Work, sought words used by children and young people and words only heard in workplaces, respectively. Our editors are investigating this latest crop, with the likes of ‘boop’, ‘peng’, and ‘WOAT’ contributed by young people (and bemused parents) and ‘bork’, ‘bandwidth’, and ‘apple box’ as heard in workplaces, among those en route to OED inclusion.

How do new words suggestions like these become part of the dictionary? You can follow the journey of OMG from its invention (in a letter to Sir Winston Churchill!) to its inclusion in the OED through our new interactive feature to find out what happens to your new word submissions!

Along with this host of words, we have had contributions from our brilliant OED ambassadors – including a decade-by-decade exploration of the past 90 years in words from John Ayto, musings on the ‘counter-language’ of slang with Jonathon Green, and a celebration of the ‘fruitful transatlantic partnership’ that is the OED from Ben Zimmer.

Walking Word by Word, by Stan Carey

Writer Stan Carey created the spine poem ‘Walking Word by Word’ to mark the occasion, dedicating it to Sir James Murray, the editor who led the first edition’s editorial staff for much of its creation. Fellow poet – and a former OED editor herself – Jane Griffiths gave a reading of her poem ‘nature, n.1’, inspired by her work editing the OED entry for nature, while poet Ian McMillan mused on the localisms of his South Yorkshire hometown in a piece for our Words Where You Are appeal.

We spoke with the Man Booker-shortlisted author Daisy Johnson who visited our Oxford HQ for a tour and a chat about her debut novel Everything Under, an eerie retelling of the Oedipus myth whose main character works as a lexicographer on our very own OED. And we were delighted to meet Desmond Morris, the world-renowned zoologist and author of The Naked Ape, in his home in North Oxford to discuss his many connections to the OED – one being his home itself, which was also formerly home to Sir James Murray and his family and was the site of the first edition’s famous scriptorium.

The plaque which marks the spot of the former scriptorium

YA and children’s fiction author Frances Hardinge shared her five favourite words, while Geraldine McCaughrean talked to us about the delights – and necessity – of unusual words in children’s fiction. And the OED can now be counted among the lucky number of books illustrated by the much-loved children’s fiction illustrator Nick Sharratt, who created a lovely birthday OED illustration and a drawing of his own favourite word – pumpkin! – for us.

And speaking of favourite words and foodstuffs, Kate Young, author of The Little Library Cookbook of literature-inspired recipes, was inspired to bake ‘formerly’ and ‘subsequently’ cheesecakes based on the OED’s etymology for cheesecake. You can find the two recipes – along with mouth-watering photos – in this blog post.

You can find all this and more (ever wondered how the OED uses Twitter as a research tool?) from our celebrations on the OED blog. Thank you for joining us in wishing the OED a very happy 90th birthday!

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.