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Voices 2005


Collection of words
Can you help the OED?

The Mackem wordhunt!

Wipe the dust of your old books, records, and newspapers. The BBC want you to find the earliest recorded instance of the word 'Mackem'!


Have you ever wondered when the term Mackem was first used?

A major BBC Two television series, broadcast in 2005, asked viewers to join The Wordhunt Project to help rewrite the Oxford English Dictionary. Since then, the BBC has been deluged with responses.

We wanted dated evidence of when many terms first came into use in the English language. And you certainly turned them up.

One of the terms they were looking at was "Mackem", which The Oxford English Dictionary has so far dated back to 1991, after seeing it used on an Internet Usenet Group.

"A common theory of the word’s origin is that it came from the shipbuilding industry of the 1930s, so the evidence must be out there somewhere!"

Sunderland AFC fanzine, "A Love Supreme", bettered that, by providing dated evidence that the term was used in 1989.

But we know you can do better still. All we need is dated evidence to prove it.

A common theory of the word’s origin is that it came from the shipbuilding industry of the 1930s, so the evidence must be out there somewhere! 

We want you to get digging through those old books, letters and LPs to provide the dated evidence that we can take to the Oxford English Dictionary as proof that the term has been in existence for a lot longer. 

The source is not important, what matters is that it is dated.

Anyone who finds evidence or has a suggestion to make, can still e-mail wordhunt@bbc.co.uk, visit www.bbc.co.uk/wordhunt or send it to BBC Wordhunt, 132 Grafton Road, London, NW5 4BA.

You can also discuss the word Mackem, and more regional words, on our Messageboards.

A major television series later this year will present the results. It'll be the biggest, boldest attempt yet to ask the nation, "Where do words come from?"

last updated: 09/03/06
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