The Oxford English Dictionary has announced a major online initiative to involve the public in tracing the history of English words. Contributors are asked to help unearth new information about the history and usage of specific English words. Requests of specific words will be posted to the website on a frequent basis.
The Chief Editor, John Simpson, states, “When researching and revising entries, our team of editors use the OED’s famous citation files, gathered over more than a century, as well as the latest digitized databases and Corpus evidence. Nonetheless, the very first recorded usage of many words can be difficult to track down. We can trace certain words and phrases back only so far with conventional tools. An old takeaway menu, a family letter or album, or an obscure journal might hold the key to solving one of those mysteries.”
According to the website, The Oxford English Dictionary has always included a form of “crowdsourcing” that can date back all the way to 1859. However, the online version allows the public to have direct contact with dictionary’s professional lexicographers even more directly.