Please join us for a talk sponsored by Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus
On the Changing Expectations of the OED: Past, Present and (Possible) Futures

Stefan Dollinger, assistant professor of English language at the University of British Columbia and editor-in-chief of The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles

Friday, November 15, 2013
12 p.m.
Dodson Room, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
University of British Columbia

The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the longest-running academic projects in history. Commenced in the early Victorian period and funded by Oxford University Press since its inception, it represents a grand achievement in English letters. As such, the OED commands a lot of prestige: when completed in 1928, no less illustrious personage than the British prime minister was the guest of honour, and Oxford University bestowed honorary degrees upon its publishers. As with any large-scale project, fair criticism can be hard to come by—one may take for granted that the OED is the apex in the field. While such claims may be hard to defend today, due credit must be given to a project that has navigated any and all rough seas for over one and a half centuries.

Professor Stefan Dollinger will offer a brief social history and criticism of the OED. Contextualizing its origins, he will consider how perceptions and expectations of the OED have changed over the decades. Today, the OED is popularly considered to list all English words, from William Shakespeare to Miley Cyrus, though such comprehensiveness was never its goal. While Miley Cyrus has as yet little to contribute to word coinage, her current notoriety and media exposure creates the possibility that she may one day popularize concepts, words, and phrases that could find entry into the OED: or shouldn’t they? This potential exemplifies the colloquialization and popularization of the OED that has already commenced. Beyond the impact of individual celebrities, the major question concerning the OED today revolves around how to conceive of the dictionary in the 21st century. Now that English is spoken by (far) more second language speakers than first language speakers, will the OED adapt to the new realities?

Free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at 604 822-2521 or, and visit the exhibition The Road to the OED: A History of English-Language Dictionaries from November 7-December 24, 2013.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus

Due to a facilities issue, the reading room for Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives will be closed on Friday, August 30. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing our patrons when we resume reading room open hours.

As part of UBC Library’s commemoration of Canada’s National Aboriginal History Month, Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) is pleased to present the return of last fall’s popular exhibition “The Iron Pulpit”: Missionary Printing Presses in British Columbia. The exhibition features materials produced on missionary printing presses in British Columbia between the 1850s and 1910s, and situates its subject in contexts of Indigenous-Christian encounter, colonialism, and print culture in the province.

Christian missionaries were deeply implicated in processes of Indigenous land dispossession and colonial assimilation in British Columbia, and printing presses supported this effort. The exhibition’s curators acknowledge that this is a sensitive topic in our contemporary climate. Current public discussions concerning residential schools are a stark reminder of Christianity’s central role in Canadian colonialism, and this project situates missionary printing presses and their imprints directly in this context. At the same time, the exhibition joins recent scholarship in advocating and advancing more nuanced interpretations of religious encounter.

Highlights from the exhibition include:

The Thompson Liturgy, printed on the St. Paul’s Mission Press, which contains surveys and inventories of the mission at Lytton, BC, including a list of villages, chiefs, and watchmen belonging to St. Paul’s as of January 1, 1873.

Jean-Marie Le Jeune’s 1897 Polyglott Manual, which translated Latin Prayers for the mass into eight different languages and dialects, including Shushwap, and was printed on the Kamloops Mission Press.

Ignis, the Nisga’a story of the formation of a large lava plain in the Naas Valley, written in both English and Nisga’a and printed by missionary James Benjamin McCullagh on the Aiyansh Mission Press in the early 20th century.

The exhibition was originally curated by the Alicia Fahey (PhD Student, Department of English) and Chelsea Horton (PhD Candidate, Department of History). Their impressive research resulted in a fascinating, scholarly, and detailed exhibition catalogue, which includes an introductory essay, item descriptions, and a checklist of extant missionary printing press imprints. Many thanks to Alicia and Chelsea for their incredible work!

The exhibition will run from June 3 until June 28, 2013, in RBSC, on level one of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and is open to the public Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The theme for UBC Library’s Aboriginal (Un)History Month this year is “Engaging Indigenous Knowledge(s).” The month-long series of events, exhibitions, and displays will introduce ways UBC Indigenous scholars are bridging communities and transforming academic spaces through Indigenous approaches to research, pedagogy, and governance. Aboriginal (Un)History Month also aims to educate and invite dialogue about (inter)relationships between place, recognition, and memory.

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