When Oxford University Press invited me to attend the Oxford English Dictionary’s 80th anniversary celebrations in Oxford, I was thrilled, but declined. Traveling to England would be fun, but impossible. (Have you looked at the exchange rate lately?) Then they offered to foot the bill.
As a rule I’m careful to pay my own way when I go out with editors and publishers — to avoid what in law is called the appearance of impropriety — so I felt guilty even considering it. Not so guilty, however, that I didn’t accept within a half-hour of receiving the offer.
I understand if this gives you pause. The point of this post is not to justify my decision to travel to Oxford on OUP’s dime, but to inform you of it.
Of course the nice people in the publicity department assured me that they knew they weren’t buying coverage. I’m not obligated to write a single word about the dictionary or the festivities, they said. But I’m sure they were aware, just as you and I are, that they weren’t taking much of a gamble. Literary field trip and word nerd that I am, I’m likely to blog not just about holding C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s OED contributions in my hands, but about the minutia of the database (my day job is in electronic publishing) and which pub stool C.S. Lewis liked to sit on. That’s not to say everything I write will necessarily be in the rah-rah vein.
I leave on the 11th, stay in Oxford till the 14th, and will remind you every time I post about the trip that OUP is footing the bill for it. Meanwhile, I finally have a good reason to read Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman.