Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
'To boldly go' gets green light
Splitting infinitives might be logical, but traditionalist won't like it
Experts behind the new Oxford English Dictionary have decided that splitting infinitives is okay.
They blame its accepted use on the failure of traditionalists to understand English grammar.
The infinitive, therefore is never split.
The dictionary explains: "the dislike of split infinitives eg 'to boldly go where no man has gone before' is long-standing but ... not well founded, being based on an analogy with Latin.
"In Latin, infinitives consist of only one word (eg. crescere `to grow'; amare `to love'), which makes them impossible to split: therefore, so the argument goes, they should not be split in English either."
Billed as the most important new English dictionary this century, is published on Thursday.
It contains more than two thousand new words, including Blairite, alcopop and tamagotchi.
The Oxford University Press started from scratch to redefine every word in the language.
The result contains 350,000 words, but fewer meanings for individual words than previous dictionaries.
That is because, using new psychological theories on how our brains use language,the dictionary identifies a small number of core meanings for each word.
Tips on word usage includes how saying black, white, or person of colour is acceptable - but spinster, squaw and harelip is not.
The dictionary is the first written from scratch by the Oxford University Press in more than 70 years.
The latest computer technology was used to analyse how the meaning of words have changed.
Oxford University Press spokeswoman Helen McManners said: "We started compiling it six years ago. It was an absolutely monumental task."
Each time a word occurs it was fed into a database along with a 'tag' defining its meaning in that context so when a lexicographer defined it they could call up the ways it is used in the corpus evidence.
Ms McManners said: "What this means is that 20 years worth of reading can be scanned in seconds to see exactly how that word is used and what it means."
The dictionary team drew on the British National Corpus, containing 100 million words, the 40 million-word American Corpus, the 44 million-word Oxford Historical Corpus, and 43 million words of citations collected by the Oxford World Reading programme.