The only occasionally nefarious dictionary editor

Ben Zimmer, a guest author featured in Far from the Madding Gerund, writes a piece in today's New York Times that reminds us dictionary making is slow, methodical, scholarly work, and not produced by "cloak-and-dagger cabals full of deep, dark secrets." Ben tells us:

As an informal (and unpaid) consultant for the O.E.D. for the past several years, I had to chuckle at the breathless reporting. The O.E.D. has long kept filing cabinets full of citation slips for words under consideration, though nowadays the work is mostly done online. There is nothing surreptitious about it — it’s all part of the mundane work that lexicographers do to keep track of how words and phrases develop over time, in order to shape and revise their entries. If you saw how dictionary editors actually went about their day, you’d quickly understand why Samuel Johnson famously defined “lexicographer” as “a harmless drudge.” 
Ben's piece is great (as usual for him), but something I originally learned from Nathan Bierma is actually pretty scandalous: There is a tradition of making up entries while producing encyclopedias and dictionaries. The reason for it is to trap would-be copyright thieves; that is, you know someone stole from you if the information they are passing off as their own has only one single (false) source, and that source is your encyclopedia or your dictionary. You can learn all about it by searching on the word esquivalience. The New Yorker wrote up one famous example of the fountain designer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel.

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