Letter: Jeremy Bentham and disarmament

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The Independent Online
From Mr Peter Gilliver

Sir: William Hartston ("Sarcastic yak captures picturesque motor-car", 28 August) celebrates the centenary, bicentenary, etc, of the entry of various words "into the language", as measured by their appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary. Flattering as it is for the OED to be thus equated with the English language, I would like to offer an update.

As part of the thoroughgoing revision of the OED now under way, we are collecting further evidence, which already shows some of the words mentioned to have longer histories. It turns out, for example, that we have already missed the bicentenary of "disarmament", which Jeremy Bentham used in 1789; and Americans were speaking of pillowcases as early as 1724, well before the OED's terminus a quo of 1745. The next edition of the OED will extend the records of thousands of words, forwards to the present as well as back in time.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Gilliver

Associate Editor

Oxford English Dictionary