The author relates the story of how, beginning with the word tiddly-winks, he became interested in "antedating" the earliest uses of words and phrases documented by the Oxford English Dictionary and then pursued this passion for forty years. His thousands of antedatings included improving the historical record of many important terms relating to sports and games, popular entertainment, American slang, politics, law, linguistics, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and other subjects. These discoveries have received extensive coverage by The New York Times and other media. Along the way, he pioneered in the use of searchable online historical text collections for linguistic investigations. Antedatings found by the author and others can shed considerable light on etymology, on history and culture through a lexical lens, and on other linguistic matters with a historical dimension. In addition, the author has extended the methods of historical lexicography to quotations and proverbs, compiling the Yale Book of Quotations and coediting the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Our knowledge of the origins of famous quotations has been revolutionized by the online searching and other research employed by the YBQ and DMP.


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pp. 23-42
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