WideOpenNews: Open Sourcing the English Language

Anyone questioning the merits of open source technology
would do well to consult the OED, a shining example of open
source’s success.

“With all the attention Linux has gotten lately, you’d think
open source was a new concept. In fact, the open source spirit has
flourished in other well-known forms for years, such as the
scientific method, or music — or language. One significant
example: since 1857, a mostly volunteer legion has been creating
the definitive source for English lexicography — the Oxford
English Dictionary.”

“As commonsensical as it sounds today, a democratically produced
dictionary was a revolutionary concept in the 19th century. Before
the birth of the OED, the creation of English-language dictionaries
was tightly controlled (Microsoft and Sun, anyone?). Up to that
point, most had been the handiwork of individual authors boasting
superior scholarship and were meant to augment rather than record
the lexicon common to the day. The works that resulted from this
control produced arcane entries like commotrix and skipped over
commonly used words that were considered lower class. The OED
strove, as it does today, to act as a historical document,
providing definitions and written examples of every word in the
English language….”