28 Nov 2012

Lexicographer deleted thousands of words from OED

10:41 pm on 28 November 2012

A New Zealand lexicographer working on the Oxford English Dictionary has been found to have got rid of thousands of words with foreign origins.

Another former editor of the dictionary discovered the changes made by Robert Burchfield when researching for a book Words of the World.

Mr Burchfield was the first non-British chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and worked on it from 1957 to 1986. He died in 2004.

Former editor Sarah Ogilvie says the versions she compared covered nine varieties of English, including American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African.

"Most of the world English words which he deleted are from America but there are a few Australian words," she told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme.

"He actually kept in - in my sample - all of the New Zealand words."

Dr Ogilvie says the policy is to never delete a word from the dictionary, but to indicate those that have become obsolete.

She says Mr Burchfield blamed previous editors when people realised words had gone missing from the dictionary.