I was lucky enough to stumble across this obituary from the Guardian, celebrating the life of a great New Zealander. (Well, he was someone who was born here but rose to greatness elsewhere – like Phar Lap, Earnest Rutherford, Dean Wareham etc – what do you call them?).

Anyway, John Burchfield was born in WangVegas but went on to become the lexicographer guy who put swear words in the (Supplement to the) Oxford English Dictionary, or, as it is put in the obituary, who “unveiled those four-letter coinings whose etymology his Victorian predecessors had diligently prepared but had been unable to present to a public which, to judge by the explanatory citations, were more than familiar with them.”

Ditto “grotty”, “gearbox”, “Sod’s Law”, and, presumably, most of the new vocabulary that emerged in the post-war period.

Didn’t see anything on this guy in the New Zealand media. Pity.


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