John Simpson
Photo credit: Blooming Photography (www.bloomingphotography.co.uk)

I was Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary for 20 years until 2013, and have written about my time at the OED in a memoir called The Word Detective.

These days I spend my time writing and researching on words, history, culture, and where they intersect. I co-edit James Joyce Online Notes and run the Pittville History Works project in Cheltenham.

Since leaving the OED I have published an edition of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary for the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and most recently (2021) a volume entitled Managing Poverty: settlement examinations and removal orders 1831-52 for the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society’s Record Series. I’m currently working on the history of individual house names in Pittville over the past two centuries.

See my Wikipedia page for some other background information.

4 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Hi John
    Your website is most interesting and I was really pleased to now have a photo of you as you are a relative, albeit somewhat distant. So good to know more about you! Julie


  2. Dear Professor Simpson,
    Greetings from Calcutta, India!
    I first came across your name when I purchased the Oxford Proverb Dictionary (the exact title is immaterial here) before I got Professor Mieder’s voluminous work on American proverbs. I was more impressed with your work ( I am not belittling Professor Mieder’s work in any way). I need to consult you and seek your advice in matter pertaining to compilation of a dictionary of proverbs of Bengali. I am facing little problem, which I hope you can sort out. If you agree to give me advice I will write to you about my problems. I am doing this work for long and it is in its final stage of compilation. I am following significant keywords type of dictionary.
    Best regards
    M. K. Nath


  3. I am enjoying “The Word Detective” very much. Although not finished reading, I have a nagging question. Why not compile and publish the newer vocabulary of science, music, business, etc., separately? Why include the words in a general dictionary? I don’t mean with instructions like a manual, just definitions. Like language dictionaries. One would not have to look up each word separately in a computer. These dictionaries could be updated much easier than a giant revision. Would be useful for students and new employees, as well as the general public.


  4. My conversation with you made me change my personal project (not financed by any anybody or any source) of Dictionary of Proverbs of Bengali, which was complete when I was emailing you. Now I decided that it should include literary examples and and I am doing that and I am sure it won’t be complete during my lifetime. And I do not find anybody who will do and finish that. It is a pity for me.


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