A NY Times interview with Michael Proffitt, the new chief editor of the OED, is well worth reading if you are interested in lexicographers and want a sense of where this one might be steering the greatest lexicographic enterprise in the world. I must admit these bits made me twitch:
“As much as I adhere to the O.E.D.’s public reputation,” he said, “I want proof that it is of value to people in terms of practical use.”
. . .
Although the O.E.D. survived the Internet upheavals that devastated other reference works, it has yet to capitalize fully on the potential online audience. Mr. Proffitt is eager to do so, perhaps with lower prices, certainly with tweaks to the website and less stuffy definitions.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with practical use and a decrease in stuffiness per se, but I am uncomfortably reminded (as I said in this Wordorigins thread) of libraries that get rid of all books over ten years old (if they’re not getting rid of physical books altogether, because digital is so much cooler). By all means bring the OED into the present, but don’t even think of lowering its standards in the name of alleged practicality or fear of stuffiness. (Thanks for the link, Eric!)