Born in Essex, England.
Office—Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, England.
Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, editor, 1988—.
The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Biography, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1997.
(With Julia Elliott and Richard Jones) The Oxford Color Dictionary, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001, 2nd edition, published as The Colour Oxford English Dictionary, 2002.
(With Julia Elliott and Richard Jones) The Little Oxford English Dictionary, 8th edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.
(With William R. Trumble, Catherine Bailey, and Judith Siefring) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.
(With Catherine Soanes) The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003.
(With Catherine Soanes) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004.
Angus Stevenson joined the Oxford University Press in England in 1988 and has subsequently worked as an editor on several Oxford dictionaries. The son of Scottish parents, Stevenson explained his interest in dictionaries on the Ask Oxford Web site, noting, "It was probably an early awareness of the difference between the ways people spoke at home and outside that gave rise to my interest in language. My parents would sometimes say that I was 'peely-wally' or that a table was 'shoogly,' while boys at school would use the strange form of address 'wotcher.'"
As an editor of The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Biography, Stevenson helped create a reference book containing entries on about 4,300 individuals. The dictionary's entries range from people like actress Jodie Foster to former Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung. Jeremy Black, writing in History: The Journal of the Historical Association, noted that the book "shows an excessive concern with contemporary figures" and added that, for many, their fame "is often short-lived." Nevertheless, Black said, "This is an amusing book to read."
Stevenson also served as coeditor of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. The publication provides a dictionary-based description of the historical development of the English language. It also traces the development of lexical meanings and forms from when they first appeared in the Old English period (seventeenth century) to the twenty-first century. The dictionary is essentially an abridgement of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles lists words chronologically by their date of appearance in speech and literature. Containing some 500,000 definitions, the dictionary covers about a third of the content of the twenty-volume work in about one-tenth of the size. Nevertheless, the edition contains 3,500 new additions that warranted inclusion. The dictionary also includes 83,500 quotations from 7,000 authors. The dictionary contains slang, obsolete, and rare words such as "spaghettification," a physics term that defines the process by which an object would be torn apart by gravitation after it falls into a black hole.
Writing in Choice, H. G. B. Anghelescu noted, "Shorter Oxford provides another example of outstanding resources published by the reputable Oxford Press, now more than 100 years old." Times Literary Supplement contributor Erich Segal had some minor objections to the dictionary, primarily concerning literary citations that "do not give details of the texts from which they were drawn." Nevertheless, Segal noted, "You don't have to be a logophile to enjoy this gigantic production." A reviewer writing in the Economist commented that for people with the fourth edition, buying the fifth edition may not be necessary but added, "First-time buyers will not find a more reliable, comprehensive or enjoyable dictionary of English."
In an article on the Ask Oxford Web site, Stevenson described how new words or phrases are selected for dictionaries, noting that lexicographers formerly relied on their own knowledge, other dictionaries, and contributions from outside readers; now searchable databases are used instead. Stevenson also pointed out that the lexicographer's task is not only to add new words but also "to update entries for words that are already in our dictionaries." Nevertheless, new words are coming into established usage at a record rate. Stevenson told Warren Hoge of the New York Times that "with technology and the speed of communication, new words and usages become established much more quickly." When asked if he had a favorite new word or phrase in the dictionary, Stevenson replied that it was "go commando," a term dating from the 1980s but made famous on the TV series Friends. "Go commando" means to go out of the house wearing no underwear. Stevenson also told Hoge, "Obviously the majority of language references is not made up of fun phrases like 'go commando,' and we spend a lot of time arguing with equal vehemence about things that would seem extremely obscure to average people."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, April, 2003, H. G. B. Anghelescu, review of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, pp. 1332-1333.
Economist, April 12, 2003, review of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, January, 1998, Jeremy Black, review of The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Biography, p. 101.
New York Times, November 12, 2002, Warren Hoge, "Latest Word: 'Klingons' in, 'Muggles' Not Quite."
Times Literary Supplement, January 31, 2003, Erich Segal, review of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, p. 11.
Ask Oxford Web site,http://www.askoxford.com/ (June 22, 2004), "Today's Dictionary Editors," and "World of Words," a description of methodology.*