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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: First Words
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0748.  Wednesday, 4 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Lavagino <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Oct 1995 14:49:06 -0400
        Subj:   First Words
 
(2)     From:   Ken Steele <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Oct 95 03:21:56 UT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0741  Re: First Words
 
(3)     From:   Matt Steggle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Oct 1995 17:44:25 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0741  Re: First Words
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Lavagino <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Oct 1995 14:49:06 -0400
Subject:        First Words
 
There is a systematic study of the OED's exaggeration of Shakespeare's
innovations: Jurgen Schafer's Documentation in the OED: Shakespeare and Nashe
as Test Cases (Clarendon Press, 1980).  If I recall rightly, Schafer simply
went through a list of words first cited from Shakespeare in the OED and looked
for earlier instances in Nashe.  He found a bunch of them.
 
Of course, it's not just admiration for or knowledge of Shakespeare on the part
of the OED's creators that leads to this effect: there's also the fact that
lexicographers, like other scholars, are dependent on the available scholarly
resources, and there just happen to be a lot more indices, concordances and the
like for Shakespeare than for, say, Nashe.  Even if they had hated the man,
they would have found it very difficult to avoid this exaggeration.
 
John Lavagnino
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ken Steele <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Oct 95 03:21:56 UT
Subject: 6.0741  Re: First Words
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0741  Re: First Words
 
Donald Foster is, of course, quite right to point out that using the OED to
determine coinages by Shakespeare is subject to a good deal of circularity. The
OED has very clear Shakespearean prejudices.  This is perhaps one impetus
behind the movement, which I assume is still ongoing, to catalogue, transcribe,
or OCR scan early printed texts to create a searchable on-line corpus of
literary works -- the raw materials for a completely impartial OED. (Of course,
there will still be major debates about the assignment of dates of authorship,
lost first editions, etc.)
 
Even if we managed to assemble a digital corpus of all surviving incunabula,
quartos, folios, duodecimos, etc., there will NEVER be certainty that a word
apparently coined by Shakespeare wasn't in fact something he read in a
no-longer-extant broadsheet, or heard in a cycle play in his youth.  And of
course, even if Shakespeare THOUGHT he coined a word, who's to say that some
shepherd lad in a remote corner of Yorkshire didn't utter it a few days
earlier?
 
-- Oh, and yes, I am back in cyberspace after a prolonged absence. I'm no
longer a professional Shakespearean, so I don't imagine I'll frequently have
much to add to discussion on SHAKSPER, but it's a pleasure to be lurking here
again...  Hello to all my old friends!
 
Yours,
Ken Steele
Stainless Steele Communications, London Ontario -- 
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matt Steggle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Oct 1995 17:44:25 +0100
Subject: 6.0741  Re: First Words
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0741  Re: First Words
 
re:  Shakespeare and coinages.
 
See Jurgen Schaefer, _Documentation in the OED_: a book which addresses all
these issues of Shakespearean "coinages" in the OED, comparing him to Thomas
Nashe's coverage.  It's frighteningly meticulous...
 
All the best
Matt.
 

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