For years Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has been counted as one of the popular dictionaries in the world. But the bitter truth is this popular dictionary lacks thousands of words. It’s being saying that Robert Burchfield, a former editor of Oxford English Dictionary secretly deleted thousands of words while editing.
Robert Burchfield, a lexicographer as well as an editor of Oxford English Dictionary produced four OED supplements (supplements are volumes added to the dictionary set in between editions) between 1972 and 1986. OED published its Second Edition in 1989. After publishing, Sarah Ogilvie, a linguist, lexicographer and a former OED editor started to compare the second edition with the first edition and found that huge amounts of words were missing in the second edition. She was shocked because OED had (still has) strict policy that no one not even the lexicographer/editor of the OED could expunge or add (new) words “without discussing with others”.
But why did Burchfield delete the words? Ogilvie said that Burchfield had deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors. She found that Burchfield had deleted 17 per cent of the “loanwords” and other English words that had been included by Charles Onions, another lexicographer who included 45 per cent more foreign words than Burchfield.
She said, “This is really shocking. If a word gets into the OED, it never leaves. If it becomes obsolete, we put a dagger beside it, but it never leaves.”
Some of the words that have been deleted by Burchfield are – Balisaur (an Indian badger-like animal), Boviander (the name in British Guyana for a person of mixed race living on the river banks), Danchi (a Bengali shrub), Shape (a Tibetan councillor), Wake-up (a golden-winged woodpecker) etc.
However now Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is re-evaluating words expunged by Burchfield, who died in 2004, aged 81 and adding new words from every English-speaking country.