Oxford English Dictionary Editor's Secret Rampage to Remove Foreign Words

By Gary Cutlack on at

A former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary staged a bizarre secret battle on foreign words over many years, deleting thousands of them from OED supplements -- and blaming his predecessors for the linguistic vandalism.

Robert Burchfield worked for the OED between 1972 and 1986, during which time he deleted some 17 per cent of words with overseas origins that had been added by a previous editor. His arbitrary overseas deletions include the word balisaur, which is a sort of badger thing that lives in India, plus the Americanised term wake-up and many more.

It's a particularly bizarre case as it was Burchfield who first included swear words in the dictionary in the 1970s, so he wasn't exactly a prudish man. Probably just a racist one. The OED is now working to rebuild its listings, adding back the words Burchfield deemed too foreign for our own good. [Guardian]