American Words in the Oxford English Dictionary

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The Oxford English Dictionary has gone where no proper, upstanding British etymologist has gone before. It’s hired an American editor in an American city to root out American words. Jesse Sheidlower is the new OED editor, for Yankspeak. He believes the OED is too narrowly identified with literary, highbrow language and he’s made it his mission to find American words in unusual places.

So in addition to scouring the letters of old Puritans, he studies everything he can get his hands on — movie scripts, tapes of “The Sopranos,” rap music, massage magazines, sports broadcasts, even a 1970’s rock ‘n roll essay called, “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.” You can thank Jesse Sheidlower for entries like ‘Ma and Pa store’, ‘chowhound’ and ‘master of the universe’. That is, if you value the OED more for many Menckenesque additions: like, mack, whack, jiggy, or whatever.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Jesse Sheidlower, American editor of the OED