Jesse Sheidlower

Jesse Sheidlower[a] (born August 5, 1968) is a lexicographer, editor, author, and programmer. He is past president of the American Dialect Society,[3] was the project editor of the Random House Dictionary of American Slang, and is the author of The F-Word, a history of the word "fuck"; he is also a former editor-at-large at the Oxford English Dictionary.[1][4] New York Magazine named him one of the 100 smartest people in New York, and he serves as a judge for the annual "literary-celeb-studded"[5] Council of Literary Magazines and Presses spelling bee.

Jesse Sheidlower
Jesse Sheidlower (6874864316).jpg
Academic background
Academic work
Notable worksThe F-Word

Sheidlower was a language consultant for Amazon’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, and in January 2021, he launched the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a website tracing the origin of terms in science fiction literature.[6]


Sheidlower attended the University of Chicago.[7] He was interested in astrophysics as a child and intended to major in science, but switched to classics and English.[1] After graduating from Chicago, he studied early English in the department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge.[1]

Although not a computer programmer by training, Sheidlower introduced Perl to the North American offices of Oxford University Press and developed tools for data manipulation when no programmers were available.[8] He is also one of the core developers of Catalyst, a popular Perl web development framework.

From 1996 to 1999 Sheidlower worked for Random House as a senior editor, where he initiated their "Word of the Day" internet page, answering questions about lexicography. In 1999, the Oxford English Dictionary hired him to manage their newly opened North American Office, based in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.[9] From 1999 until 2005, Sheidlower was Principal North American Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary; then he was editor-at-large focusing on North American usage.[10] He left the OED in 2013.

While at the OED he managed the Science Fiction Citations project, a program to capture citations of science fiction words such as "alien", "robot", and "cyberspace". The project began in 2001 and was hosted at Sheidlower's personal website.[11] In 2021, Sheidlower launched the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction website, an expansion of the earlier Citations project.[12]

Sheidlower is an expert amateur cook and collects both cookbooks and bar paraphernalia; Food & Wine Magazine has written about his "famous Manhattan dinner parties".[13] He is one of the two proprietors of the Threesome Tollbooth, a cocktail bar in Williamsburg, New York, which is only large enough for the bartender and two guests.[14][15] He has been consulted on both the linguistics[16] and logistics[17] of the well-tailored suit.

Sheidlower has written against the censorship of obscenities in news coverage and court cases, arguing that a reliance on euphemisms can impede accurate reporting, deprive readers of integral information, and obscure the realities of racism, sexism, and homophobia.[18][19]



  1. ^ /ˈʃaɪd.laʊər/; the syllables rhyme with "side hour".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Scott, Janny (19 August 2000). "That All-English Dictionary Adds an All-American Coach". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  2. ^ Midgley, Daniel; Skirgård, Hedvig; Ainslie, Ben (17 March 2021). "22: Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction (with Jesse Sheidlower)". Because Language (Podcast). 03:51 (first occurrence). Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  3. ^ Barrett, Ron (11 February 2017). "Move Over, Wikipedia. Dictionaries Are Hot Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  4. ^ Saroyan, Strawberry (24 March 2005). "The new wave of lexicographers". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  5. ^ Fradkin, Lori (31 October 2006). "'Village Voice'r Outspells Famous Novelists". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  6. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (26 January 2021). "Tracking the Vocabulary of Sci-Fi, from Aerocar to Zero-Gravity". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Search for meanings: Jesse Sheidlower, AB'89, collects words and their usages for the next incarnation of the Oxford English Dictionary". University of Chicago Magazine. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  8. ^ Perl Enters The Oxford English Dictionary
  9. ^ "Hot Type". Chronicle of Higher Education: A24. October 8, 1999.
  10. ^ OED Former Staff Page
  11. ^ Prucher (2007), pp. ix, xv.
  12. ^ Rogers, Adam (27 January 2021). "A New Way to Trace the History of Sci-Fi's Made-Up Words". WIRED. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  13. ^ Hayes, Jonathan (31 March 2015). "The Definition of a Perfect Host". Food & Wine. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  14. ^ Goldfield, Hannah (October 12, 2017). "The Top-Secret New York Bar That's Only Big Enough for Two Customers". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  15. ^ Buchanan, Matt (November 10, 2017). "Definitely Don't Go to Threesome Tollbooth, Not at All". Eater NY. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  16. ^ Zimmer, Ben (13 September 2013). "Can 'Bespoke' Give iPhones British Chic?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  17. ^ Idov, Michael (16 August 2007). "Me, My Suit, and I". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  18. ^ Sheidlower, Jesse (30 March 2014). "The Case for Profanity in Print". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  19. ^ Liptak, Adam (1 November 2008). "Must It Always Be About Sex?". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2021.

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