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Celebrating 100 years of the Concise

Celebrating 100 years of the Concise

18 August 2011

OUP celebrated the centenary of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary today with the publication of the new 12th edition of the dictionary and a limited-edition facsimile of the original 1911 edition.

Edited by the brothers Henry and George Fowler from their cottage in Guernsey, and drawing on the work that had been done for the Oxford English Dictionary, the first edition of the Concise was not simply an abridgement; it was a completely different kind of dictionary, one that sought primarily to cover the language of its own time. A century on, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary remains a bestseller.

At the time of its original publication, the dictionary was warmly received: the Times Literary Supplement called it ‘literally without rival’ and The Scotsman said it was ‘the best small dictionary extant’. It is a fascinating glimpse into another world, one without radio, television, air travel, and many other things that the later 20th century took as part of the everyday common experience. At the time, a jet was a stream of water, computer was not recognized, a slogan was a Highland war-cry, and a squadron referred to cavalry or ship.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary presents a record of the flow of new words entering our language over the century – and the social, cultural and technical influences that led to their creation. For instance rag-time was in the first edition, published in 1911, while the movies arrived in the revised first edition of 1926. In 1944 anschluss, armoured column, and Gestapo were added to the third edition. But when the fifth edition was being compiled in 1964, Beatlemania was sternly refused - though beatnik was included.

A hundred years later, the new 12th edition has added over 400 new entries since the last edition, including alternative vote, retweet, jeggings, and domestic goddess.

Further information about the dictionary can be found on this blog post or see the video below.