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Help the OED Find a Lost Book 91

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the doesn't-everyone-have-that-book dept.
New submitter imlepid writes "The Oxford English Dictionary is currently undergoing a complete overhaul which includes a reexamination of the 300,000+ entries and citations for those entries. Understandably for a work which is over 150 years old, some of the sources have become hard to find. One such example is a book titled 'Meanderings of Memory' by Nightlark, which is cited 49 times in the OED, including for some rare words. The OED's editorial team has appealed to the public, 'Have you seen a copy of this book?'"
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Help the OED Find a Lost Book

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:35PM (#43665997)

    Their work ethic is wicked.

  • How silly. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Aerokii (1001189) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:38PM (#43666019)
    When your work witch is over 150 years old, you'll definitely want an overhaul.

    Or retirement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:40PM (#43666037)

    "But Mr Dent, Meanderings of Memory has been available in the local library for the last nine months."

    "Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see it, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

    "But the book was on display ..."

    "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find it."

    "That's the display department."

    "With a flashlight."

    "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

    "So had the stairs."

    "But look, you found the book didn't you?"

    "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

    • Well, I tried to remember where the book is, but my memory always started to meander when I tried.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        I put it on my mobile device but it managed to disappear. For some reason it pulled a 1984. I guess that's what I get for using Amazon's book reader.

        Thought it would feel at home on a mobile device.

    • by MrLint (519792)

      Dear sir,

      As this is the OED, and you are quoting HHG another British work, the line was 'torch' not flashlight.

      psh...

      amateurs.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Someday it may be history.

  • ..it was probably burned at the stake.

  • Irony? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ubrgeek (679399) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:46PM (#43666119)
    They can't remember where they left the 'Meanderings of Memory' book?
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:49PM (#43666145)

    What if "Meanderings of Memory" never existed in the first place, but was made up by sloppy 19th-century OED editors when they couldn't find a real source? It's not as if this practice is unknown...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:03PM (#43666327)

      check the comments under the OED blog - there's a link to a catalog on google books which lists it

      • by Spiridios (2406474) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @02:00PM (#43666985) Journal

        check the comments under the OED blog - there's a link to a catalog on google books which lists it

        Would that I could mod you up. Here's the catalog [google.co.uk]. It's entirely possible that it's also made up, but seems less likely.

        • Might it be possible that they got the reference from OED?

          • Possible, yes. I looked it up in Vol. XX ( the one with the entire list of references ) of the OED. It simply says "Meanderings of Memory" by 'Nightlark' [ date ]". Google books may have scanned the digital version of the OED ( which I do not have at hand here, only at work, can not check before the tomorrow ). If so, then we may be in the presence of a hoax. Moreover, the Latin citation in the Google books entry is of a dubious level, like the one that hot-headed juvenile would-be poets produce. It says, m
          • The OED was first published in 1889, and those catalogues date from 1854.

        • by dwye (1127395) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:57PM (#43670117)

          Of course, by your logic, there are also numerous copies of The Necronomicon, as well as at least two of the Al Asif (the Arabic, untranslated source of The Necronomicon) in various libraries. Just to extend the joke, most have been borrowed by a member of the Whateley family and are years overdue. I also understand that librarians have added a few copies of The King In Yellow (the mythical play, not the collection of stories about it) around the country. In a few years, expect to see works by Nickolaus Flamel (sp?) start showing up, as Harry Potter fans get in charge of things.

          Librarians with too much time on there hands leave all sorts of in-jokes around.

    • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:04PM (#43666339)

      What if "Meanderings of Memory" never existed in the first place, but was made up by sloppy 19th-century OED editors when they couldn't find a real source? It's not as if this practice is unknown...

      Maybe its like the fake roads that cartographers put into maps... anyone else who references it clearly copied the OED!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We did this in high school. "Must have 10 sources" or something like that. Dammit, the encyclopedia was all you really needed. It was literally impossible to find even 3 sources that made sense. We made some up. Made up names, ISBN number, the whole works. I knew the teacher was busy. I totally got away with it, kinda gives me a chuckle. I don't feel much guilt about this since it was a ridiculous requirement. I do kind of wonder, if the teacher had been told that she fell for a book reference publ

      • My favorite reference, which I see occasionally in serious books, is "Personal communication". Usually it references a letter from some named individual, but it could just as well mean "some guy I met in a bar."
    • Well, if you had to cite a source, but all you had was your own recollection that you had heard the word, 'Meanderings of Memory' is pretty much the perfect name for it. It's even possible that within the community of people working on it, it was a well understood practice. Like giving a directing credit to Alan Smithee for a film. (For a guy who never existed, he sure was prolific!)

  • 'Meanderings of Memory' was somebody's code for "I made it up."

  • I'll Check (Score:4, Funny)

    by HtR (240250) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:54PM (#43666199)

    Let me check. It might be sitting on my desk.

    Umm - this might take a couple of hours ...

  • by lsommerer (89441) <lsommerer@sewardweb.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:59PM (#43666255)

    I would love to use the OED occasionally and wouldn't mind paying to do so, but who can afford to spend $295 per year for a subscription?

    I have to assume that they are not all idiots and that they actually have some subscribers at that price point, but I can't imagine that that model makes the most money possible. I want to look up maybe one word a month, and I would be willing to pay to do so, but I can't pay $295 a year (or even $29.95 per month).

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The unabridged OED is pretty much just for libraries and research institutions. It's not just a matter of price, previous to them coming up with an online edition, the books took up like 3m of shelf space. And many of the additional words in there are used once or twice in the entire body of known literature.

      If it's not in the largest single book version of the OED, you're not likely to encounter a word that isn't in it. Now, if you do, then paying for the full unabridged version might make sense.

      • The unabridged OED is pretty much just for libraries and research institutions.

        This is true, though a lot of people have access to the OED through a local library and don't know it. Lots of urban public libraries also subscribe to it, as do a decent number of library consortia, and these often allow you to use it online from home. And of course many, maybe most, academic libraries have access to it. I'm a Chicagoan and can use it online through a link at the Chicago Public Library's home page (once I prov

        • I have a friend who bought the compact edition late in the print run. He said the plates had been badly worn, resulting in much of the text being barely readable.
      • The unabridged OED is pretty much just for libraries and research institutions

        FAIL. I, being neither a library nor a research institution, possess the print version of the unabridged OED. ( My girlfriend, after years of hesitation, has begun using it for her Ethnology studies, too. At work, alas, I must use the digital version. Colleagues have begun to come and consult it. My profession: a software architect.... ) Yes, it DOES take up 2+ m of shelf space. It is my proudest and most precious possession ( "precious" not measured in financial terms here ). Yes, I spent close to € 1

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        the Kindle edition is less than $50 for all 2110 pages. Note on Amazon's web page: "Due to its large file size, this book may take longer to download"

    • by idji (984038)
      if you were doing a PhD in the history of philosophy or modern thought, you would pay such an investment, so you could understand those 16th and 17th century works that you are reading.
    • by ffflala (793437)
      Chances are your local library has a subscription to it, and you can access it from your library's online resources portal with your library card # and password, all for the cost of getting a library account set up.

      Last time I checked the purchase price, a single copy of the full-text print version of the 2d edition (about twenty volumes) sold for around $11k, I believe. It might have been $18k, it has been a while. I've seen used copies of the two-volume, small print OED (requires a magnifying glass to
    • by carndearg (696084)
      Given the office I'm sitting in and the job I do this is a question I encounter from time to time. I can't comment on pricing for obvious reasons, but I can offer an alternative that may help some of you.
      Many public libraries purchase OED Online subscriptions which they make available to their users for free. All you need is your library card number to log in and use it as much as you like. In addition most educational institutions have site licences for use by their people in the same way. It may not he
  • How do you know she is a witch?

    Sir Bedevere: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
    Peasant 1: Are there? Oh well, tell us.
    Sir Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
    Peasant 1: Burn them.
    Sir Bedevere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?
    Peasant 1: More witches.
    Peasant 2: Wood.
    Sir Bedevere: Good. Now, why do witches burn?
    Peasant 3: ...because they're made of... wood?
    Sir Bedevere: Good. So how do you tell whether she is made of wood?
    Peasant 1: Build a bridge out of her.
    Sir Bedevere: But

  • I recently picked up "The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" and this post made me think of the the story. A quick check gives a time frame of 150 years ago, and maybe everyone that works at the OED isn't familiar with the history of Dr. Minor. If he truly was a "Madman", I wouldn't put it beyond him to make up sources for some of his many contributions.

  • This might be one of the world's oldest examples of book trolling!


    ...other than every religion's grand accomplishments, of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/catablogger/8717819652/in/photostream/

  • by x_man (63452) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @01:35PM (#43666707)

    For those wanting to know what the Latin phrase underneath translates to:

    Cur potius lacrimae tibi mi Philomela placebant?
    Why do tears please you more, My Philomela?

    From Wikipedia: Philomela or Philomel (Ancient Greek: ) is a minor figure in Greek mythology and is frequently invoked as a direct and figurative symbol in literary, artistic, and musical works in the Western canon.

    • by chad_r (79875)

      Someone had an interesting comment in the New Yorker article:

      I see that you refer to "Philomena" in your comment rather than the "Philomela" of the text. St. Philomena was a virgin martyr whose times and story are roughly contemporaneous to the composition of the book. Possibly there is some connection to the "revirginization" quotes within the lost text. In addition, the tears may refer to the liquid reputed to have sprung from Philomena's statue in Italy in the 19th century...

      Also, there is more than one

  • I threw it on the fire when we burnt Alexandria.

  • Someone create the book and have it cite the OED... if you are able to make it look old enough to pass it will make their heads explode....

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      No need to create the whole book. why I've already fabricated enough relevant quotes from it on wikipedia.

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @04:20PM (#43668439)

    .... to the library unless someone gives me a break on 150 years of late fees.

  • I've got to consider Oxford's own Mathew Arnold (1822-1888) as a plausible candidate for "Nightingale". His "The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems" (1849), and "Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems" (1852) were published under the pseudonym "A.", but they certainly seem characteristic. Odd that he hasn't been made mention of. http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poems/strayed-reveller [utoronto.ca] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172862 [poetryfoundation.org] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/matthew-arnold [poetryfoundation.org]

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