Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Episode 1

Language is always changing. No one knows where it is going, but the best way to peer into the future is to look at the past. John Simpson brings to life a tradition of researching and editing, describing the way in which the Oxford English Dictionary is written and updated - based on historical principles showing how language evolves.

John Simpson joined the staff of the OED in the pre-digital 1970s. He retired as Chief Editor in 2013, having overseen the digitisation of the dictionary in the 1980s, before taking it online in 2000.

With a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at bureaucracy and an inclination to question the status quo, he gives life to the colourful characters at the OED and to the English language itself.

In today's episode, John Simpson describes how the OED got started in the mid-19th century. He relates how he joined the staff as a fledgling lexicographer in the 1970s, and was soon given the job of revising the dictionary entry for the word 'queen'.

Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Read by Nigel Anthony
Producer David Blount
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Mon 13 Mar 2017 19:45


Role Contributor
AuthorJohn Simpson
AbridgerLibby Spurrier
ReaderNigel Anthony
ProducerDavid Blount

Audio Books

Audio Books

Exceptional books and readings.

Short stories to keep

Short Story Primary

The fiction podcast featuring the best stories from the UK's finest writers

Sample our books and authors Clip Collection

Clips of Books Content

Interviews, previews and reviews

Books website

Books home

Get closer to books with in-depth articles and radio & TV highlights.