It is the world's most definitive work on the most global language, but the Oxford English Dictionary may be disappearing from bookshelves forever. Publishers fear the next edition will never appear in print form because its vast size means only an online version will be feasible, and affordable, for scholars.
Change is afoot at the O.E.D. For the first time in 20 years, the venerable dictionary has a new chief editor, Michael Proffitt, who assumes the responsibility of retaining the vaunted traditions while ensuring relevance in an era of Googled definitions and text talk.
In his first interview since assuming the position in November, Mr. Proffitt - a neat 48-year-old in suit and tie who has defined, researched and managed for the O.E.D. since 1989 - was respectful of the old ways but equally ready to reconsider the dictionary