This paper argues that voluntary readers for OED1 made citations from minor literary works in accordance with stereotypes about their language and content. They are, consequently, less well-represented in the dictionary than writers of higher literary status. The use of electronic databases in the OED3 revision process will tend to reduce these works’ existing coverage by antedating first citations from them, and by selecting citations from among a wider range of possible sources. While unusual uses in Shakespeare will not be removed as part of this revision process, it is highly unlikely that the nonce forms of less canonical authors will be inserted. In this way, the current revision process perpetuates the literary prejudices of the first edition.


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pp. 66-100
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