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Aug 30

 It weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing. Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it's uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary's next edition will be printed on paper at all.

The digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers, who pay $295 a year for the service in the U.S. In contrast, the current printed edition — a 20-volume, 750-pound ($1,165) set published in 1989 — has sold about 30,000 sets in total.

It's just one more sign that the speed and ease of using Internet reference sites — and their ability to be quickly updated — are phasing out printed reference books. Google and Wikipedia are much more popular research tools than the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and dozens of free online dictionaries offer word meanings at the click of a mouse. Dictionary.com even offers a free iPhone application.

By the time the lexicographers behind the century-old Oxford English Dictionary finish revising and updating its third edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

"At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product," a statement from the publisher said. "However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication."

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn't think the newest edition will be printed. "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year," he said.

His comment related primarily to the full-length dictionary, but he said the convenience of the electronic format also is affecting demand for its shorter dictionaries.

It's too early to predict whether digital dictionaries will completely wipe out the printed format, and Portwood stressed that Oxford University Press has no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries. Schools still rely primarily on printed versions, the publisher said, and demand for its best-seller, the Advanced Learner's Dictionary, is still high among nonnative English learners.

Ben Robinson owns a micro-print version of the full Oxford that requires a magnifying glass to read, but the London part-time writer said he rarely uses it these days. Instead, he now consults the iPhone dictionary and thesaurus most often, and sometimes uses the online Oxford English Dictionary when he wants to find out the full history or more meanings of a word.

"Few people own the full version so maybe now that it is online more people can gain access to it," said the 30-year-old. He would still mourn the loss of the printed version, he added.

Launched in 2000, the online Oxford also makes it easier for its publisher to catch up with rapid semantic changes and new words.

Editors put updates out every three months. In March, for example, they added words such as "techy" and "superbug" to the online version.

The dictionary was first published in parts starting in 1884. It kept growing for decades until the complete text went out in 1928. It was the first comprehensive English dictionary since Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language" was published in 1755, and has since evolved to become the accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.

The version users now consult — the second edition — has 291,500 entries, plus 2.4 million quotations as sources. Unlike shorter printed versions such as the single-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, it doesn't track current usage.

A team of 80 lexicographers are preparing the third edition of the dictionary, which is just one-quarter finished. Oxford University Press hasn't yet given a date for when the third edition will be ready.

In December, the online version will be relaunched to include a historical thesaurus to make cross-referencing easier.

By SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press Writer Sylvia Hui, Associated Press Writer Sun Aug 29, 6:43 pm ET





Mar 28
LOL, FYI and OMG have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. Is this a good idea – and what others are they missing !

Would the adults you know be able to say what OMG, LOL or FYI mean?

At the end of the month, they will be able to look them up in the dictionary because OMG, LOL, FYI and other popular abbreviations used in texting and emailing are to be included in the new online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The entry for OMG will read, "OMG int. (and n.) and adj.: 'Oh my God' (or sometimes 'gosh', 'goodness', etc.)". LOL is defined as "LOL int. and n./2: 'laughing out loud'."

The folk at the OED call these abbreviations "initialisms", because they are made up of the intitials of the expression. "Initialisms" are handy when using social media sites like twitter that limit the number of characters used in a message, says Graeme Diamond, principal editor of the OED. But Diamond thinks there's more to these words than boring word limit practicality. They are associated with young people, informality and are often used to show irony.

These words may not be as new as some may think. The OED found that OMG was first used in 1917, in a personal letter. LOL has been around since 1960, but it meant something quite different, with the letters standing for Little Old Lady.

OMG, LOL and FYI join IMHO (FYI this means "in my humble opinion") and BFF (best friends forever), which are already listed. The symbol <3 meaning, "to love" will also be included.

Do you think these abbreviations and symbols deserve a place in the dictionary and are there any other words you would like to see included? Send us your suggestions at childrens.books@guardian.co.uk and we'll put them up on this page as they come in.

Courtesy: http://www.guardian.co.uk

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