Or your citation can, at any rate. Read the How to contribute page and fill out a submission form, and if you’ve actually managed to sniff out a truffle their professional hounds have missed, you may have the satisfaction of seeing your find, first online and eventually in the next edition. Furthermore, you can see your name online if you give them a proper citation for one of the unidentified quotations from Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, which shouldn’t be too hard; just wade through, say, William Derham’s Physico-Theology: Or, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, From his Works of Creation. Being the Substance of Sexteen Sermons Preached in St. Mary-le-Bow Church, London, At the Honourable Mr. Boyle’s Lectures, 1711, and 1712 keeping an eagle eye out for the seven needed quotations (for example, “In a scarcity in Silesia a rumour was spread of its raining millet-seed; but it was found to be only the seeds of the ivy-leaved speedwell, or small henbit”). Send in the citation and they’ll fade the quotation on the page and add your name in parenthesis, immortalized as a… well, I think they should revive the old Byzantine title of logothete for this purpose.

Furthermore, you can chat with Jesse Sheidlower, the Principal North American Editor of the dictionary, Monday night via A.Word.A.Day (this information courtesy of Ryan at Linguistiblog).

Update (Feb. 2020). All the links were dead; I have replaced them with archived versions for historical context, but here is the current “Contribute to the OED” page.


  1. And have you done these things? Are you avidly researching and documenting? Have you chatted? I would be disappointed if you said ‘no’ – you’re the only person I know who has a shot at this OED immortality.

  2. No, no, and no. Go ahead, be disappointed — I know I am. But laziness is a significant character trait.

  3. I think laziness is the last thing I would ever accuse you of. C’mon, you could at least chat!

  4. Seventeen years later: I have found the Derham quotation they wanted; it’s on p. 244, the start of CHAP. XV. Of the Generation of Animals. But I imagine this is old news to them by now.

  5. David Marjanović says

    But I imagine

    Only one way to find out.

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