Dictionary mistake goes unnoticed for 99 years

Marissa Calligeros in the Sydney Morning Herald:

ScreenHunter_02 May. 14 14.06 It has taken the keen eye of a Queensland University of Technology physicist to spot a 99-year-old mistake in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The error may be slight, but it's an error nonetheless, Stephen Hughes said.

Dr Hughes claims he has discovered that the dictionary's definition of the word “siphon” has been incorrect since 1911.

The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, and many other dictionaries, stated that atmospheric pressure was the force behind a siphon.

But in fact it is the force of gravity at work.

“It is gravity that moved the fluid in a siphon, with the water in the longer downward arm pulling the water up the shorter arm,” Dr Hughes said.

When Dr Hughes stumbled across the mistake he alerted the dictionary's revision team, which had just completed revising words beginning with the letter “R”.

“I thought, 'Oh good, just in time,' because S is next,” he said.

More here.