Home : Archive : TSV 21-30 : TSV 23 : Regular

The Space Museum

A Collection of Doctor Who Oddities

The Dalek Invasion of the Dictionary

by Paul Scoones

In Terry Nation's contribution to Peter Haining's book, Doctor Who - A Celebration, he concluded his section by noting that "there were many rewards and pleasures to come from the Daleks, but the one I treasure most was when I learned the word Dalek had been included in a new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary."

Intrigued by this, I decided to investigate his claim, and sure enough there it was, not only in the Oxford, but also the Collins English Dictionary.

The 1986 edition of the Collins English Dictionary lists Nation's creation on page 399 as follows:

Dalek ('da:lεk) n. any of a set of fictional robot-like creations that are aggressive, mobile, and produce rasping staccato speech. [C20: from a children's television series, Dr Who]

The multi-volume 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary has a considerably longer and notably different entry. Volume IV (Creel-Duzepere) features 'Dalek' on page 221:

Dalek ('da:lεk). [Invented word] A type of robot appearing in 'Dr Who' a BBC Television science-fiction programme; hence used allusively. Also attrib. and comb.
1963 Radio Times 26 Dec 11/1 Dalek Voices: Peter Hawkins, David Graham. 1966 BBC Handbk 39. the main activity over the period in this 'merchandising' operation concerned the widely popular Daleks from the 'Dr Who' series. Some sixty licences for the production of Dalek-inspired articles were issued. 1969 C. Hodder Williams 98.4 iv.49 Under what interesting new law do you propose to enforce this regime? Or have you hired the Daleks? 1971 Radio Times 30 Dec 10/1 Who are the Daleks? Dr. Who's most dangerous enemies - written into his second adventure in 1963 by Terry Nation who named them after an encyclopaedia volume covering DAL-LEK.

And there you have it - immortality for Doctor Who! As I said before, it pops up in the oddest places - where will it turn up next, I wonder...?

This item appeared in TSV 23 (June 1991).

Index nodes: The Space Museum