Dictionaries: Open(ish)-Source Lexicography
HAVE you heard the “amazeballs” news about Collins Online English Dictionary? It’s become the “frenemy” of tradition-lovers after its recent additions of words crowdsourced from the public, which some might consider the equivalent of “mummy porn” slipping in to Shakespeare. Indeed, don’t be surprised if you spot a “bashtag” about this latest development, or someone demanding a “tweetup” to resolve the issue.
As dubious as this may sound to some, the above paragraph was legitimate English. Indeed, its veracity has passed the test of those sternest of eyes, the lexicographers at collinsdictionary.com. These sticklers for spelling and high standards this week approved 86 new words that came in the form of online public submissions.
Of course every new dictionary has new words that upset traditionalists, and crowdsourcing is nothing new. John Simpson, the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, says that in 1859 the OED appealed to readers in America “to supply material for us” and that the dictionary is an “amalgamation of editorial effort, users contribution, and academic consultants who review what we put out before we publish it”.
But what makes Collins different is that “people come to us and we welcome all word suggestions,” says Alex Brown, head of digital at Collins. Simply create a Collins online account and then submit as many words as you like, along with definitions and explanations. Readers can track recent submissions’ progress through editorial review, with comments from editors and reasons for rejection or inclusion. Rather than just a site for word submission, Brown says, the “whole process of dictionary creation is opened up.”