A New Zealander has been accused of covertly deleting
thousands of words from the Oxford English Dictionary because
of their foreign origins, and then blaming previous editors.
The efforts of Wanganui-born Robert Burchfield, a former
editor of the dictionary who died in 2004 aged 81, were
uncovered in a new book by linguist, lexicographer and former
editor of the OED, Sarah Ogilvie.
During his time as editor, Burchfield produced four
supplements between 1972 and 1986.
The Guardian reported that Ogilvie undertook a "detailed
analysis" of Burchfield's work and compared it with the 1933
supplement for her book, Words of the World. She found that
Burchfield had deleted 17 per cent of the "loanwords" from
other languages and world English words.
Examples of Burchfield's deleted words include balisaur, an
Indian badger-like animal; the American English wake-up, a
golden-winged woodpecker; boviander, the name in British
Guyana for a person of mixed race living on the river banks;
and danchi, a Bengali shrub.
The OED told the Guardian that they were now re-evaluating
words expunged by Burchfield.
Ogilvie called Burchfield's actions "shocking".
"If a word gets into the OED, it never leaves. If it becomes
obsolete, we put a dagger beside it, but it never leaves."
Examples of words with foreign origins deleted by
"Shape": A Tibetan councillor.
"chancer": A verb from American English meaning "to tax".
"swamp fuchsia": Common name in Australian English for
Eremophilia maculata, a species found in Queensland.
- Amelia Wade of the New Zealand Herald