Physicist spots dictionary error

May 12, 2010 at 2:06 PM

BRISBANE, Australia, May 12 (UPI) -- An Australian physicist said publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary agreed to fix a 99-year-old definition error he discovered during research.

Dr. Stephen Hughes of the University of Technology in Brisbane said he was researching an article for science teachers when he discovered an error in the definition of "siphon," The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

He said the definition falsely claims siphons work due to atmospheric pressure when it is actually gravity that performs the function.

"It is gravity that moves the fluid in a siphon, with the water in the longer downward arm pulling the water up the shorter arm," Hughes said. "We would all have an issue if the dictionary defined a koala as a species of bear, or a rose as a tulip."

Hughes sent a letter to the Oxford University Press about the error, which first appeared in the dictionary in 1911, and the reference book's revision team sent him a reply promising to correct the mistake in the next edition.

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