restricted access Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (review)
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Reviews1 99 Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. 2007. Edited by Jeff Prucher. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. xxxi + 342. W Writing in American Speech in 1995 (Shapiro 1995, 23-24), I suggested a program of special-subject historical dictionaries of the English language: In 1919, as the OEDwas nearing completion, one of its editors, Sir William A. Craigie, proposed a scheme of period and regional dictionaries to supplement the Dictionary itself, which, despite its great size, could not possibly treat all the varieties of so extensive a language as English comprehensively (Craigie 1931). In furtherance of Craigie's plan, a Middk English Dictionary has been in progress for many decades, historical dictionaries of Scottish, American, Canadian, Jamaican, Bahamian , and Australian English have been published, and Old English, South African, New Zealand, and Trinidadian ones are underway. Now that the OED2 is completed, the time may be ripe for a new program of specialized supplementary historical dictionaries. I have in mind a range of subject lexicons, prepared by scholars with subject expertise on the basis of reading programs in the literatures of the various disciplines. Any of the departments of natural or social science, the humanities, or the professions would be suitable for such treatment. My orientation in writing the above was toward historical dictionaries of academic or professional disciplines, but the same idea could apply to specialized historical lexicons covering areas of the arts, pastimes such as sports and games, particular types of slang, or odier areas of human activity and culture . Specialized historical dictionaries have in fact been published covering cricket, baseball, golf, jazz, and politics, among other fields (Lewis 1934, Nichols 1939, Sperber and Trittschuh 1962, Gold 1975, Dickson 1989, Davies 1992, Barrett 2004). The most recent addition to this genre is Brave New Words, edited by Jeff Prucher. This superb work had a remarkable genesis, namely The Oxford English Dictionary Science Fiction Citations Project (SCFP) . Prucher notes in his front matter (ix) that "the majority of the citations in this dictionary" were derived from that project, which has been collecting citations for science fiction terminology since 2001 (online at . I am indebted Dictionaries:Journal oftheDictionary Sodety ofNorth America 28 (2007), 199-202 200Reviews to The Oxford English Dictionary, John Simpson, Chief Editor, andJesse Sheidlower, Editor-at-large, for making this information available to me, and to Sue Surova, Mike Christie, and Malcolm Farmer, for their roles in creating and overseeing the project. The SCFP, like the OED itself, is noteworthy as a collaboration bringing together volunteer enthusiasts to create scholarship of a type not usually pursued by professors, in this case relating to a specific pop-cultural subject. Unlike Wikipedia, in which the lunatics run the asylum with results that are uneven in quality, the OED and SFCP take the contributions of the amateurs as raw material to be verified and synthesized by professional lexicographers. On the SFCP Web site, the terms are grouped in three broad categories , Science Fiction, SF Criticism, and SF Fandom, with brief definitions and datings of the earliest evidence now in the OED/SFCP files. The three categories suggest that the project is attentive not only to the vocabulary of science fiction novels and stories, but also to the critical terminology of the field and the colorful in-group language of science fiction fandom. Prucher's book is arranged alphabetically in one sequence and gives full-fledged definitions, etymologies where these are not obvious, and multiple complete citations of usage. In thus fleshing out the bare bones given on the web site, Prucher incidentally furnishes a rich picture of both the literary genre and the quirky subculture . Illuminating the culture and substantive history of a specialized field along with its language is one of the things that make specialized subject historical dictionaries so interesting. Because the history of words is linked to the history of ideas and the history of things, a good historical dictionary can often provide insights into a field's origins and development not available through any other means. Browsing through Brave New Words, I find a fascinating mix of entries that, to me as a very casual...