Last Words

Get ready to ride the new wave of the big kahuna of language as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) prepares to go on-line in March 2000. Since 1992, all 20 volumes of the OED have been available on CD-ROM, a smarter way to reference the relatively new second edition (published in 1989) than with weight training, a step ladder and a magnifying glass. Now the goal is to get the last word in words expanded to include more than 1,000 new and revised entries every quarter.

Lexicographers at Oxford University Press don’t expect to finish the mammoth US$55 million project to revise the OED until 2010, what with the business world’s obsession for creating single-use words and phrases such as ROI or data warehousing, not to mention the entire language that has arisen around the Internet (you won’t find “chat room” in the OED first edition, we’d bet).

Taking that into consideration, the editors currently have issued an appeal for dictionary submissions on the Internet, which can be made at The site also features words that are currently under consideration for inclusion, so one can avoid duplication or help the OED elves document a word. So, even if you do submit D’oh as a common-use exclamation of surprise or regret upon realizing a mistake, you’ll have to back it up with precisely cited quotes and references made from multiple sources in print.

Words that have been overheard or are a part of speech but have not been used in an article or book or some other form of print will not be accepted. You will have to track down the first usage and the exact shades of meaning and make a good case for inclusion.

Wondering when you’ll know if D’oh has passed muster? Well, you’ll have to wait until March 2000 to find out. Not many would argue with the fact that having your word included in the Oxford English Dictionary is reward enough. But, commemorative magnifying glasses on a gold chain would be nice.