Former Oxford English Dictionary Editor Deleted Words from the Dictionary, Ruining Scrabble for EveryoneS

Do you have any idea how many words we haven't been saying since 1972?

No, no one does, because some asshole editor went on a crazy deleting spree a couple decades ago while editing the Oxford English Dictionary: the one dictionary from which words are, supposedly, never deleted.

According to a new book, the deletions were performed by Robert Burchfield, an editor who worked on four supplements to the OED published between 1972 and 1986. (Supplements are volumes added to the dictionary set in between editions. Burchfield's supplements were integrated into the main dictionary when the OED published its Second Edition in 1989.)

Sarah Ogilvie, a linguist studying the OED who uncovered the deletions by comparing editions, described the discovery as "shocking," because of the OED's strict anti-deletion policy for entries.

"If a word gets into the OED, it never leaves. If it becomes obsolete, we put a dagger beside it, but it never leaves."

Among the words Burchfield deleted: "boviander," a term used in British Guyana to describe someone of mixed race living on the river banks; "danchi," a kind of shrub; and "balisaur," an Indian badger-like animal that died because not enough people believed in it. Just kidding, it's still alive. But, if you ask an English person, it's like it never even existed. (You know what is in the OED? "Jabberwock," an animal invented by Lewis Carroll that literally never existed.)

According to the Guardian, Burchfield wrongfully placed the blame for his own deletions on supposedly Anglocentric editors who came before him. In fact, Burchfield deleted 17% of foreign "loanwords" (including Americanisms) that had been included 1933 by editor Charles Onions. It's like telling your Ecuadorian friend he can't have dinner at your house because your grandfather has "a weird thing" about Ecuadorians, but, in fact, the "weird thing" your grandfather has is a xenophobic grandson who tells mean-spirited yarns.

A spokesman for Oxford University Press, the publisher of the OED, said the dictionary intended to "re-evaulate any terms which were left out of the supplement by Burchfield." The spokesperson also pointed out that Burchfield added thousands of international words (like the word "Shape," a Tibetan councilor—except not actually that word, because that's one of the words he deleted) to the dictionary.

While the news won't affect the past Scrabble scores of anyone playing with the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary as their book of reference (which is to say: no one), if you have ever turned to the OED in either a Scrabble or real world setting as a definitive record of English words, you have been living a lie. Change all your Scrabble scores to 0, for honor's sake.

On the plus side, any time you make a typo now, you can explain that it's an alternate spelling of the word that was "deleated" by Burchfield in the ‘70s.

[Guardian // Shutterstock]