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Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie’s most recent books include Gen Z, Explained: How to live in a digital world (2021), The Whole World in a Book (2020), and The Cambridge Companion to English Dictionaries (2020). She is a linguist at the University of Oxford.

Sarah Ogilvie reviews 'Speaking our Language: The story of Australian English' by Bruce Moore

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307 01 December 2008
Sir James Murray, the famous editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, believed that the dictionary-maker’s job was to furnish each word with a biography. In Speaking Our Language, the Australian lexicographer Bruce Moore has taken Murray’s dictum to its ultimate conclusion: he has furnished a biography of our nation using its words – their pronunciation, meaning and form. The result is a st ... (read more)

Sarah Ogilvie on Australia in the Oxford English Dictionary

September 2023, no. 457 25 August 2023
There are many impressive things about the first edition of The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but one in particular has long puzzled me. As an Australian, I have always been struck by its excellent coverage of Australian words. I am not talking about the inclusion of obvious words such as kookaburra, woomera, and fossick, but rather the hundreds of lesser-known words such as wonga-wonga (pige ... (read more)

'Crunk, wig, and slaps: How our language dates us in the digital world' by Sarah Ogilvie

June 2022, no. 443 23 May 2022
At a dinner party recently, the conversation turned to how our language gives away our age. No more so than in the use of slang, proposed one guest, who suggested that each person’s use of slang, like a favourite pop song, is frozen in time from their teenage years. Take, for example, terms for something considered ‘wonderful’. The theory goes that if someone still says swell, tickety-boo, o ... (read more)

'Unsung hero of Australian lexicography' by Sarah Ogilvie

June 2012, no. 342 23 May 2012
Historical dictionaries depend on quotations to exemplify how a word is used over time. An unsung hero of Australian lexicography, who contributed more than 100,000 quotations to the Australian National Dictionary (AND) and Oxford English Dictionary (OED) over a period of thirty years, died two years ago this month. Mr Chris Collier of Brisbane had spent every day since the mid-1970s combing the C ... (read more)

'Landmines in lexicography' by Sarah Ogilvie

May 2012, no. 341 23 April 2012
When the ALP conference voted to amend the party platform on same-sex marriage at the end of last year, there was a flurry of debate in magazines, newspapers, and online. The platform now states: ‘Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life.’ For lexicographers, this e ... (read more)

'Parasitic dictionaries and spam books' by Sarah Ogilvie

April 2012, no. 340 01 April 2012
A few years ago, Peter Austin and David Nathan, two Australian linguists working at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, discovered that their dictionary of Kamilaroi, an Aboriginal language of New South Wales, was for sale on Amazon. The only problem was that they had not put it there and it had someone else’s name on it. Philip M. Parker, having found their Kamilaroi/Gamilaraa ... (read more)

'Citizen lexicography: Creating a "Word Zoo" in Canberra' by Sarah Ogilvie

March 2012, no. 339 01 March 2012
Every day for the past few months, the Sydney linguist Michael Walsh has been sitting in the Mitchell Library poring over old manuscripts. He is extracting old wordlists of Aboriginal languages from the library’s rich collection of early British settler diaries, missionary field notes, and unpublished historical documents for a project funded by the State Library of New South Wales and Rio Tinto ... (read more)

'‘A new garment throughout’: The future of dictionaries in the digital age' by Sarah Ogilvie

February 2012, no. 338 21 January 2012
We are on the verge of another revolution in dictionary-making. Since the seventeenth century there have been three major revolutions in lexicographic practice. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey produced the first monolingual English dictionary, which was – radically – arranged alphabetically. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson employed literary citations to illustrate the meaning of ... (read more)