Robert Ilson, 6 May 1982
‘Robert Burchfield, Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, made a bid to unite two nations divided by a common language by unveiling the Oxford American Dictionary, which includes such words as gridlock (“urban traffic jam”). ’ So proclaimed the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. British and American English do indeed differ in all sorts of ways, as the following list of equivalent pairs will remind any doubters: lift/elevator, push-chair/stroller, bonnet/hood, boot/trunk, windscreen/windshield. Has Mr Burchfield (who is not the Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, but of Supplements to it) succeeded in uniting the two nations, which, I take it, means making it easier for us to communicate with each other? A bit of ‘lexicographic archaeology’ will help in finding an answer.