Error in the Oxford English Dictionary?

by Apr 14, 2014Books, Linguistics3 comments

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 23.04.38

I wrote this note to the OED folks a few days ago regarding the screenshot above. Anyone have another explanation? I’d rather not believe that the OED committed an error!

Dear Sirs:

I regret to inform you that you may have an error in your otherwise invaluable dictionary.

I believe that an incorrect citation has been placed in the entry for “miserable.” The first nominal sense contains a citation from 1994 in the Daily Telegraph. The citation faithfully replicates the italicization of the word miserables. But, in fact, I believe the italics to be an indication that the author intended his or her readers to view the word as French, despite the absence of the acute accent: misérables. I consider this a possible allusion to Les Misérables, and the fact that the French-speaking nation of Haiti is in view provides further evidence for my supposition.

I am happy to be corrected. I have never discovered an error in the OED in all my previous years.

An amateur lover (pardon the etymological redundancy) of lexicography, yours,

mlwj

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3 Comments
  1. mlward

    So you think I’m right?

    Reply
  2. Jeremy Patterson

    Yes, unless the OED lexicographers were thinking of the Spanish translation of Les Misérables, which I would rank as highly unlikely. Or unless they were emphasizing the word for which they included the example — also unlikely, given that they didn’t do that for the other examples. It is more likely, I suppose, that the Daily Telegraph editors made the original error of leaving off the accent, and so the OED editors just copied what was in the newspaper.

    Reply

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