DSNA member John Simpson is retiring after 20 years as the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Oxford University Press has announced his retirement from his post effective October 2013. John joined the OED editorial staff in 1976, and became co-editor with Edmund Weiner in 1985. He was appointed chief editor in 1993, the seventh OED editor since Sir James Murray’s appointment in 1879. Under John’s editorship, over 60,000 new words and meanings have been added to the OED.
For more than 35 years John has contributed to one of the world's largest and longest-running scholarly projects during a time of great change. During the 1980s the entire OED text, comprising the First Edition (1884-1928) and its Supplement (1972-86), was digitized as an integrated single text. This work laid the foundations for the publication of the twenty-volume Second Edition in 1989 and the launch of OED Online in 2000.
Effective 1 November 2013, Michael Proffitt, the current editorial project director, will serve as chief editor of OED, responsible for leading decision-making on style, policy, and strategy. Philip Durkin, currently principal etymologist, will become eeputy chief editor alongside existing Deputy Chief Editor Edmund Weiner
My headline comes from an interview with John published in Time, which you can read here.
That's the sub-heading in the conclusion to an article from the 15 April 2013 Publisher's Weekly. Journalist Gwenda Bond concludes her article, "The Changing World of Reference," by interviewing DSNA President Orin Hargraves. Here's an extended quotation:
At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publisher Bruce Nichols agrees that the digital future for reference is bright. "Unlike with commercial fiction, it's not going to e-book so much as other forms," Nichols says. "Our print sales are still strong enough to merit new titles, but are declining. Electronic licensing is doing really well." ...
HMH also purchased Webster's New World reference titles and CliffsNotes from Wiley late last year. A major new edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary will be released next year, and the publisher is currently exploring options to expand upon the popularity of the CliffsNotes Web site, which brings in significant advertising revenue. Nichols is concerned, however, about the potential impact of one long-term trend in the field. The drop in profitability of print editions of dictionaries in particular has resulted in fewer on-staff positions for lexicographers throughout the reference world. What that could mean for the quality of dictionaries in the future is an open question.
Author and lexicographer Orin Hargraves, current president of the Dictionary Society of North America, agrees that it's a concern, though the effects of the decline aren't being felt just yet. "Many things a[r]e still drawing on legacy resources," he says. "When the time comes that they are truly crowdsourced, quality will decline. Very few people instinctively know how to write a good definition." But with the average age of English-language lexicographers "well over 40," fewer openings to train new lexicographers for, and perhaps 100 remaining in the world (which Hargraves believes is actually enough), it could well become a problem to find qualified, dedicated professionals to provide the dictionary content of tomorrow and ensure changes to the English language are accurately captured and quantified.
"It's a dilemma," says Hargraves."Lexicography is a useful skill when you're putting together dictionaries. But what about if a day comes when no one is?"
The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that "editor Joan Houston Hall said she’s issued layoff notices, effective July 1, to the staff of the respected dictionary, which includes more than 60,000 words compiled by UW-Madison researchers during the past 48 years." Among the factors: A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities came in at $50,000 less than expected due to the federal funding cuts known as sequestration, while private giving has slowed because of the recession, the Journal reports.
Editor Hall continues to seek funding support for DARE; a digital version of the dictionary will be published later this year by Harvard University Press.
Linguist Geoff Nunberg observes that, in the context of "gay marriage," "As a tactical move, thumping the dictionary has replaced thumping the Bible..." Read or hear his entire essay, broadcast on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, here.
The votes are in! Thank you to everyone who cast ballots (and filled out the survey). The constitutional amendments were approved and our slate of candidates has been elected. The election will be formally confirmed at the General Meeting of the Society in May. Congratulations to:
Luanne von Schneidemesser, Vice President 2013-2015; President 2015-2017
Rebecca Shapiro, Executive Secretary, 2013-2017
Ammon Shea and Peter A. Sokolowski, Board Members at Large, 2013-2017