Why doesn't the OED have better coverage of mathematical terms?
October 5, 2010 10:14 AM Subscribe
Why doesn't the OED have better coverage of mathematical terms? Is this an area they want to improve on, or have they drawn a line of obscurity somewhere that just leaves out more than I expected?
posted by ErWenn to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I understand that technical terms only used in very specific fields are beyond the scope of most smaller dictionaries, but reading through commentary about the OED on the OED website, I get the impression that they specifically do want to include technical jargon.
I got interested in the issue because I wanted to try my hand at making some contributions to the OED, maybe finding some old citations, drawing attention to some of the more obscure mathematical terms, or finding mathematical uses of otherwise ordinary words. I started seeing if they had entries for some seriously obscure words like clopen or oplax. They didn't have them, which didn't surprise me, so I started looking at increasingly less obscure words: comultiplication, dinatural, groupoid, comonoid, cohomology, compactify, polylogarithmic, multiset...
When they didn't have multiset, I figured there was a systematic bias here. Either they're terrible at getting technical math terms into the OED, or they don't want them in there. But I can't really figure out which it is. I'd like to help contribute here if they're just having trouble, but if multiset (a term that's at least 60 years old and very common in many different fields of mathematics, as well as in computer science) is beyond the scope of what they're interested in, then I probably shouldn't bother.
(I'd just submit some information and see what they said, but I also got the impression that the only way you'd know if they did anything with your information is if it actually appeared in the online version. It'd be nice if they could drop you an e-mail to say that they used your info, but they probably get hundreds of contributions every day and it probably just goes into a big "look at this when we get to that part of the alphabet" pile.)
Anyway, so I'm not so much interested in speculation as to why a dictionary maker might choose to leave out certain obscure technical words as to where the OED in particular has drawn the line for technical terms, especially mathematical ones.