John Simpson

Dean of Degrees,

Emerita & Emeritus Fellow

Faculty of English

OBE, BA York, MA status Oxford, MA Reading, Hon. DLitt Leicester, ANU

Chief Editor, Oxford English Dictionary, 1993-2013

John joined the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1976, and was its Chief Editor from 1993 until his retirement in 2013. In 1991 he was one of the first wave of Fellows elected to Kellogg College, and in the same year was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters from the Australian National University for services to lexicography.  John is also a member of the Philological Society (where the idea of the Dictionary was first mooted in the 1850s). In 1982 John’s edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs was published, and in 1992 he co-edited the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang.  His introductions to Robert Cawdrey’s English dictionary (1604), B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew (1699), and James Redding Ware’s Passing English of the Victorian Era (1909) have recently been published by the Bodleian Library.  He is Co-editor of the James Joyce Online Notes, a forum for the publication of documentary evidence elucidating the network of cross-references and allusions in Joyce’s fiction, and is involved in several local-history projects in his home town of Cheltenham: see, for example, the Pittville History Works database. John contributes to the work of the Department for Continuing Education by lecturing on language and lexicography, and is an executive committee member (and one of the two UK delegates) of the European Federation of National Institutions for Language (EFNIL). John is now an Emeritus Fellow of the College, and one of the College’s Deans of Degrees. In 2014 he was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours, and in 2015 the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters was conferred on him by the University of Leicester.

Recent publications:

2016 The Word Detective. A Life in Words: From Serendipity to Selfie, published by Little, Brown in the UK and Basic Books in the US
2015 “Flynnlandia, or the rise (and fall) of the House of Usher”, in James Joyce Online Notes (Issue 8: September)
2014 “William Jones, 2 Essex Villas (now Ravenhurst, 93 Pittville Lawn)” at
2013 “The Oxford English Dictionary and Its Philosophy”, in Philosophy & Technology 26 (3):341-8
2013 “Introduction” to James Redding Ware The Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase (Oxford: The Bodleian Library)
2013 “The Madams of Nighttown; or, a Dublin lupanarology”, in James Joyce Online Notes (Issue 4: March)
2012 “English” in Revue Belge de Philosophie et d’Histoire p. 857-79