Further Documentation for the OED
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 8, 1986
- pp. 146-159
- Additional Information
FURTHER DOCUMENTATION FOR THE OED R. W. McCONCHIE The work undertaken by Professor J. Schäfer in his monograph on the editorial policies of the OED1 has given considerable impetus to my own on the medical works of the sixteenth century.2 As he recently noted in this journal,3 it is of some importance to bring such studies into line so that comparisons can be made, even if the primary objectives of the research are themselves rather different. In my previous study, antedatings and other corrections to the OED were examined at some length, and comparisons were drawn with Schäfer's findings, but as he has pointed out, a strict comparison was not possible. It is the purpose of the present note to correct that situation, to provide further comparative evidence, and to make some comment upon it.4 The medical works upon which the original work was based are: Langton, C. An introduction into phisicke, with an universal diet, ca. 1550. Langton, C. A uery brefe treatise, ordrely declaring the principal partes ofphisick . . . , 1547. B[ostocke], R. The difference betweene the auncient and the modern physicke, 1582. Clever, W. Theflower ofphysicke, 1590. Cotta, J. A short discourse of the vnobserued dangers of seuerall sorts of ignorant and vnconsiderate practisers ofphysicke in England, 1612. To the works from which antedatings were excerpted for my earlier article, the following have now been added: 146 R. W. McConchie147 Baker, G. The composition . . . of the moste excellent and prestigious oil called oleum magistrale, 1574. Hester, J. (tr.) A short discourse . . . vppon chirurgerie, 1580. Hill, T. A ioyfull iewell. Contayning . . . excellent orders, preseruatiues and precious practises for the plague, 1579. More, P. The hope ofhelth, 1564. While the starting-point of my original study was not to make comparisons with Schäfer's work, but to examine the treatment of the language of 16th-century medical texts in the OED, the antedatings listed have now been brought for the present purpose into accord with Schäfer's principles of the exclusion of fine-print subentries (lemmas) and the inclusion of only what I shall call "absolute first citations," that is, the earliest of all dates appearing under an entry head (main lemma), as distinct from first citations of any sense other than that bearing the earliest date. The absolute first citation is frequently to be found in sense one, but may occur elsewhere. It was not possible for that study to proceed on Schäfer's principles, since to exclude all but absolute first citations would eliminate many words for which there is a special medical sense given as later than the first citation, as in those cases where narrower senses have subsequently developed, e.g., state. It might also have excluded words derived from others as obvious morphemic developments that have several potential lexical slots to fill, e.g., elevator and compressor. In these two instances the medical sense happens to be the earliest cited, but in the cases of congealment and continual this is not the case. The elimination of fine-print entry-heads and fine-print sub-entries (lemmas and sub-lemmas) other than absolute first citations does rather arbitrarily make a significant factor of an inconsistent editorial practice where it need not be. Some words are given main entry-head status where there seems little reason for it, and words that are in all respects parallel are not. A case in point is cancrenated, which is listed as obs. rare1 with only one citation but appears as a main entry-head. 148 Further Documentation for the OED Many other rare participial adjectives appear at the end of an entry-head for the verb, or sometimes noun, after the field-marker "Hence." In this respect it is less misleading to include all entry-heads than to eliminate some and make editorial inconsistency a factor in statistical analysis. A necessary caveat is that some few words that did not appear in previously published lists of antedatings in Notes and Queries do appear here. These words were excluded in these publications on the grounds that they had already been reported in the Middle English Dictionary or in some other published list...