Project History

Stefan Dollinger & Margery Fee

DCHP-1, the 1967 historical dictionary of Canadianisms, was the brainchild of Charles J. Lovell, an American lexicographer who took an interest in Canadian English in the 1940s and 1950s when few others did. DCHP-1 would be edited not by Lovell, who died suddenly in 1960 (see Bonnie Lovell's 2011 account), but by Walter S. Avis, a young scholar who had been focusing on Canadian English since the early1950s, and an editorial team. Besides Avis, the team included two other academic pioneers of Canadian English, Patrick Drysdale and Matthew Scargill, the former working for the publisher of DCHP-1 at the time, while the latter was director of the Lexicographical Centre that produced DCHP-1. Charles Crate, a Quesnel, BC, high school teacher who was active in northern Canada, and Douglas Leechman, FRSC, an anthropologist with national museums experience, rounded out the team. They were fortunate to be able to build on Charles J. Lovell's "impressive" (DCHP-1: x) private collection of Canadian English quotations, which he began shortly after he joined the editorial team of Mitford M. Mathews' Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles in Chicago in 1946.

This team published the dictionary (Avis 1967a), originally planned for completion in 1970, to coincide with Canada's centennial celebration in 1967 as part of the Dictionary of Canadian English Series, that had already earned a reputation with its school dictionaries that had been tailor-made for the Canadian market since 1962 (Avis et al. 1962, 1963, 1967b). The public's response to the DCHP-1, and its echo in the press, was very favourable, even enthusiastic; with its second edition, The Senior Dictionary was renamed The Gage Canadian Dictionary (Avis et al. 1973), perhaps as a result of this favourable reception.

Anticipated updates and revisions of DCHP-1, however, never came to fruition. In a book review, no less a dialect scholar than Raven I. McDavid, then director of the Linguistic Atlas of the US and Canada project, praised DCHP-1 and especially its plans for an ongoing updating and revision process (see McDavid 1970: 289). Walter S. Avis's untimely death in 1979, at age 60, was a prime reason the revision came close to a standstill. Yet at least until the 1980s, quotation collection continued for an update, as we know of such work by Matthew H. Scargill and Henry J. Warkentyne in Victoria. At the same time, the discipline of linguistics had begun to turn away from lexicography, which increasingly was led by publishers. Work on DCHP-1 wound down with the dismantling of the Lexicographical Centre at the University of Victoria on the retirements of Scargill and Warkentyne in 1991/92. Both of these pioneering Canadian linguists died in 1997. 

The historical lexicography of Canadian English was in hiatus from about 1991 until 2005, when a conference honouring J. K. Chambers hosted a panel on "Towards a second edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles". The panel, which was organized by Terry Pratt, a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, and David Friend, an editor for Nelson Education, introduced the idea to the circle of scholars of Canadian English. Pratt and Friend, together with John Considine, a professor at the University of Alberta, and Katherine Barber, editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, explored the idea of a revision (see Barber and Considine 2010).

In early 2006, Nelson Education approached Stefan Dollinger, then a PhD student at the University of Vienna, to revise DCHP-1, and in August of that year the project moved to the Department of English at the University of British Columbia. Nelson Education, with David Friend and Terry Pratt, continued to support the project, while funding came from a variety of Canadian, Austrian and American sources. Laurel Brinton and Margery Fee joined the project that year as associate editors. After the open access publication of DCHP-1 Online ( in 2013, Dollinger and Fee embarked on the editing of DCHP-2 content with a team of student research assistants, while Brinton pursued other research interests.

The project was divided into four parts: first, the Bank of Canadian English (BCE) (2006-2010), a collection of dated quotations, was compiled to support new headwords for the second edition. Second, DCHP-1 was scanned with the assistance of UBC Archives and was proofed and modified for the web. Third, in 2007 software programming began for the BCE, and, in 2008, for an online Dictionary Editing Tool. In 2007, Janice McAlpine, then Director of the Strathy Language Unit, agreed to transcribe Avis's paper citation files, collected from 1967 to 1979, and had them entered them into the BCE. In 2012, the editing of new content for the update started with a list of some 700 potential Canadianisms that were selected from the Gage Canadian Dictionary (5th edition, De Wolf 1997), the Canadian Oxford Dictionary2nd edition, Barber 2004) and the ITP Nelson Dictionary1st edition, Friend 1997). The headword count grew to more than a thousand.

We are pleased that half a century after the first edition and coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, we can offer "an improved second edition" (Avis 1967: xv), DCHP-2, to the Canadian public and a global readership alike. We hope, moreover, that the open access format will better ensure accessibility than the book format, especially for non-academic audiences and readers outside of Canada. To ensure that Avis's legacy is accessible, we would like to point out that a digital version of the first edition, DCHP-1 Online, is available in open access at (with special thanks to Nelson Education for making open access possible).

The original plan from 2006 was to address three issues in DCHP-2 (these and following quotes from, 2006):

The first and third goals have been fully implemented, although the plan of a paper copy was abandoned in 2007. DCHP-2 was never intended to be a comprehensive revision. The goal has been to "correct [] the most important oversights in DCHP-1", by focusing on 20th- and 21st-century terms; thus DCHP-2 is intended as an "an important step towards a complete revised edition" (, 2006). At this point we do not know who will take responsibility for producing a fully revised edition, DCHP-3, yet we are happy to support in every way scholars who wish to pursue this challenge to ensure a continuity of knowledge and skill.

Because funding was slow to materialize, we adapted our data collection methods to a format suitable for the classroom. Students learned original research and provided some data for the project (Dollinger 2010a). In January 2008, with the help of UBC and SSHRC funding, we were in the position to open our offices. In the "Canadian English Lab" we completed between early 2008 and Fall 2010 the main data collection for the Bank of Canadian English based on a data "harvesting" scheme and a list of codified Canadianisms compiled from three print dictionaries (Canadian Oxford Dictionary 2004, the Gage Canadian Dictionary 1997 and the ITP Nelson Dictionary 1997). The years 2010-11 were primarily occupied with the proofreading of the scanned DCHP-1 and its conversion for the web. In 2007, UBC Archives scanned DCHP-1 free of charge, which produced the file that was imported to our online dictionary environment. In 2012-13 we began to work out the editorial principles that would guide the editing process of DCHP-2. Drafting of entries began in 2012 and was largely completed by the spring of 2015. The revising of entries was slower, partly because drafting was handed over to undergraduate and graduate students, which added more training tasks than is customary. Three student assistants, Baillie Ford, Alexandra Gaylie and Gabrielle Lim, drafted most of the entries. Other student drafters were Emily Briggs, Jona Dervishaj, Ana Martic and Dorota Lockyer.

Most revisions took place between 2014 and August 2016. The Editor-in-Chief, Stefan Dollinger, checked every aspect of the entries and then passed them along to associate editor Margery Fee for copy-editing. All entries were then proofread by Nancy Tinari, who joined the DCHP-2 team as proofreader in February 2016. Some two dozen terms were completed between September and Christmas 2016, and the frontmatter text was written.

From September 2015 to publication, members of the DCHP-2 team left their home turf in Vancouver and teleworked from various places. The last in-person project meetings were held in April 2015, at which point the project became virtual in every sense of the word. Dollinger worked from Gothenburg, Sweden; Ford, who had worked earlier in Victoria, moved to Montreal and worked on DCHP‑2 from there, while Fee, Gaylie and Tinari worked from Vancouver (Vancouver, Richmond and Port Moody, respectively), where Hewett carried out our programming needs.

Programming work began in 2007, when we realized that existing software would not serve our needs. The development of the Bank of Canadian English as a quotations database and linguistic resource and corpus, but more so the Dictionary Editing Tool, our online editing environment, were new concepts in 2007-08. The Dictionary Editing Tool was initially developed by students in Computer Science, in a CPSC319 Software Engineering class led by Kurt Eiselt. The two programming teams working on the project were composed of Yanik Bérubé, Taivo Evard, Frank Hangler, David Kennedy, Stephanie Kuo, Cindy Lai, Cindy Shih, Kyu-Eun Lee, Jonathan Ng, Sha Xiao and Yian Chen. Once they graduated, we continued to use their services for some time (Dollinger 2010b).

It is difficult to put a figure on any project. Not counting in-kind contributions from UBC (office space, scanning costs) and other sources, and the main editors' hours spent within their research mandate at UBC and Gothenburg University, the total estimated cost of DCHP-2, DCHP-1 Online, the BCE (Bank of Canadian English) and DET (Dictionary Editing Tool) is CAD $ 300,000, between 2006 and 2017. Most funds were spent on salaries for 29 graduate and undergraduate student research assistants over the years and for programming costs. We also attracted nine volunteer workers (see Acknowledgements). Funding came from Nelson Education ($10,000), the University of Vienna ($8,000) and the Urdang-DSNA Award ($1,500) in the early stages of the project. SSHRC contributed a total of $173,000 with three Insight Grants (Brinton 2007-09, $36,000, Dollinger 2010-11, $26,000 and Dollinger 2013-16, $111,000).

Because of the widespread availability of American and British dictionaries, Canadian lexicography really only began to gain steam at the turn of the 20th century with the publication of three major desk dictionaries; the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998), the Gage Canadian Dictionary (5th edition, 1997) and the ITP Nelson Dictionary (1997). However, soon competition from online dictionaries of widely varying quality made the production and revision of such dictionaries unprofitable; Oxford disbanded its Canadian lexicography program in 2008, while Nelson (Gage) was slowly abandoning English-language reference publishing. DCHP-1 and DCHP-2 were both produced by teams based at universities, where humanities research that produces high-quality public knowledge is still supported. Both projects trained many students in computing, research and writing skills that they will use for their lifetimes. We hope that the pleasure and learning of readers and researchers will vindicate the time, energy and funds dedicated to the project.


Avis, Walter S., Robert J. Gregg, Charles J. Lovell and Matthew H. Scargill (eds.). 1962. Dictionary of Canadian English: The Beginning Dictionary. Toronto: W. J. Gage.

Avis, Walter S., Robert J. Gregg and Matthew H. Scargill (eds.). 1963. Dictionary of Canadian English: The Intermediate Dictionary. Toronto: W. J. Gage.

Avis, Walter S., Patrick D. Drysdale, Robert J. Gregg and Matthew H. Scargill. 1967b. Dictionary of Canadian English: The Senior Dictionary. Toronto: W. J. Gage.

Avis, Walter S., Patrick D. Drysdale, Robert J. Gregg and Matthew H. Scargill. 1973. The Gage Canadian Dictionary. Toronto: Gage.

Avis, Walter S. 1967. Introduction. In A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, edited by Walter S. Avis, Charles Crate, Patrick Drysdale, Douglas Leechman, Matthew H. Scargill and Charles J. Lovell, xii-xv. Toronto: Gage.

DCHP-1 = Avis, Walter S., Charles Crate, Patrick Drysdale, Douglas Leechman, Matthew H. Scargill and Charles J. Lovell (eds.). 1967a. A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. Toronto: Gage.

Barber, Katherine and John Considine. 2010. Revising the Dictionary of Canadianisms: views from 2005. In Current Projects in Historical Lexicography, edited by John Considine, 141-149. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Canadian Oxford Dictionary 2004, 1998 = Barber, Katherine (ed.). 2004. 1998. Canadian Oxford Dictionary. 2nd ed., 1st ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Dollinger, Stefan. 2010a. A new historical dictionary of Canadian English as a linguistic database tool. Or, making a virtue out of necessity. In Current Projects in Historical Lexicography, edited by John Considine, 99-112. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Dollinger, Stefan. 2010b. Software from the Bank of Canadian English as an open source tool for the dialectologist: and its features. In Joseph Wright's English Dialect Dictionary and Beyond: Studies in Late Modern English Dialectology, edited by Manfred Markus, Clive Upton and Reinhard Heuberger, 249-261. Berne: Lang.

Gage Canadian Dictionary 1997 = de Wolf, Gaelan Dodds, Robert J. Gregg, Barbara P. Harris and Matthew H. Scargill (eds.). 1997. Gage Canadian Dictionary. 5th ed. Toronto: Gage.

Lovell, Bonnie A. 2011. The Lexicographer's Daughter: A Memoir. Unpublished PhD disseration. University of North Texas.

ITP Nelson Dictionary 1997 = Friend, David, Julia Keeler, Dan Liebman and Fraser Sutherland (eds.). 1997. ITP Nelson Canadian Dictionary of the English Language: An Encyclopedic Reference. Toronto: ITP Nelson.

McDavid, Raven I. 1970. Canadian English. American Speech 46 (3-4): 287-289.