Publication details [#1087]

Mugglestone, Lynda. 2013. “Life-Writing”: The Lexicographer as Biographer in the Oxford English Dictionary. Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 13 pp. URL
Publication type
Book – conference proceedings
Publication language


This paper reflects on biography and life-writing as common metaphors in the history of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and the principles of historical lexicography adopted in it. Life-writing demanded a certain empirical and inductive commitment in which the descriptive neutrality of the writer becomes salient. Biography is a convenient metaphor for the narrative acts of historical lexicography. However, it also reveals noticeable problems. This paper suggests that the lives that get written and the way in which they are conveyed raise very important questions regarding culture, ideology, and hierarchical value as manifested in the OED.