A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921.

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Using this online edition

How the Dictionary is organized

Sample page from Dictionary

The Dictionary of Occupational Terms is not a traditional dictionary—it offers definitions of terms, but these are not presented in an unbroken alphabetical sequence. It is perhaps better thought of as a thesaurus with definitions. The entire sphere of occupations is broken into 32 areas ("Orders", as the Dictionary calls them), 29 of which are included in the Dictionary, from Fishermen (Order I) to Stationary Engine Drivers, Dynamo And Motor Attendants (Order XXX) and Other and Undefined Workers (Order XXXI). Within each Order is a series of sub-sections, each identified by a three-digit code, and each covering a specific type of employment within the Order, so for example Order XXVII, Persons Engaged In Personal Service, includes codes 900 (Domestic servants), 910 (Game keepers and game watchers), 911 (Restaurant keepers) and 912 (Lodging and boarding house keepers) through to 924 (Chimney sweeps), 925 (Undertakers) and 929 (Others in personal service).

Only within the sections for the individual codes are the entries listed alphabetically, with synonymous terms grouped together and followed by a shared definition.

In this online edition, each three-digit occupational code has its own page. The List of Occupational Codes gives the orders and codes, and links to the page for each individual code.

In the original dictionary, on the page for an individual code, the headwords are presented in bold type. In some cases these are followed by further terms in italic type, which are less important synonyms and local variants. These headwords are then followed either by a full definition, or by a cross-reference to another headword on the same page where a definition will be found. These cross-references are introduced by see or as for; the difference between these is explained in the Key to Arrangement and Abbreviations. The two types of entry can be seen in the extract below.

Entry for Knot Clipper

There are also many cross-references within the dictionary definitions. Where a cross reference is indicated solely by "q.v.", the relevant entry falls under the same code and will be found elsewhere on the page. Otherwise a cross-reference is indicated by the three-digit code between parentheses, and followed by "q.v." — in this online edition the code in the listing is linked to the relevant page.

Locating an occupational term

There are three ways to locate a term in the online Dictionary

Differences between the printed and the online dictionary

The aim of this online edition is to present the content of the dictionary, and no attempt has been made to reproduce its layout or match its typography exactly. The preparation of this edition has relied on the possibility of automating the formatting of the individual entries for uploading to a database, to allow automatic searching and indexing. To this end, punctuation inconsistencies in the original, which might prevent the automatic recognition of the structure of the text, have been silently corrected. Manifest typographical and spelling errors in the definitions have been allowed to stand but marked [sic] where they have been identified (though simple inconsistencies in spelling have not been flagged). However, in order to ensure that all headwords are findable, the small number of obvious spelling errors in headwords have been corrected:

The original text uses a to indicate terms which "would have been more appropriately classified under other code numbers" (see the Key to Arrangement and Abbreviations). This has been omitted to simplify processing. It is, in fact, entirely irrelevant, given that (a) this reclassification will be irrelevant for the understanding of 1921 Census forms when they are released, and (b) the actual final classification for the 1931 census can in any case be consulted online at Histpop (Title Page - Classified List).

One area of uncertainty in the treatment of the original is hyphenation. The book uses a three-column layout, and lines of text are around 35 characters in length, with the result that hyphenation of longer words is not uncommon. With most words this is not a problem, but for compound terms, it can be unclear whether the hyphen is meant to be hard or soft, raising a doubt as to whether forms such as sail-maker or wire-stitching, hyphenated over a line-break, should be digitised with the hyphen or without. The approach in this digital edition has been initially to treat all line-end hyphens as soft and therefore remove them, unless there is evidence elsewhere in the text for the hyphenated form. Where this produces a word not recognized by a spell checker, a hard hyphen has generally been inserted. Any inconsistencies will not affect the meaning of an entry — indeed, even in the body of a line, the Dictionary itself is not always consistent in hyphenation, with, for example, belt-man alongside beltman and belt man in related entries.

The dictionary uses italics for a number of purposes. While italicisation was mostly identified correctly in the digitisation process, it would have been an immense and largely pointless labour to ensure completely accurate reproduction, and so no effort has been made to do so.

One of the difficulties with the index in the original dictionary is that for each term it gives only the occupational code. With terms like presser, which is found in many different industries (metal-working, shoemaking, corsetry and around a dozen more) there is no way to tell from the index which is the one you are looking for. In the online index, each listed entry is accompanied by the heading of the code under which it found and the Order covering that code. Also, a popup window on each indexed term allows you quickly to see the definition for any term.

In the original Dictionary, there are occasional inconsistencies in the alphabetical ordering of entries. These have not been corrected or harmonized — each Code page reproduces the ordering of the printed Dictionary.

The omitted orders

In the original Dictionary, there are three Orders from the earlier classification which are not included:

Definitions of the occupations in these categories are not available, but the list of occupational codes in each order and the terms which fall under them have been provided here to complete the overview of occupational classifications. These codes and terms have been taken from Census 1921. Classification of Occupations, published in 1924, and previously used by the clerks annotating the actual census returns. This is essentially the dictionary without the definitions.

In fact, unlike many of the occupations in the Dictionary, almost all the terms in these three Orders will be familiar to users, since they relate to the professions, the Church, the armed forces, and public administration. Any unfamiliar terms in these areas will be readily found in even a basic dictionary.

Accuracy of the digitisation

This online digital edition was created by optical character recognition (OCR) of the PDF images published on CD-ROM by the Open University, using ABBYY FineReader. (Adobe Acrobat's OCR, while quite accurate at reading individual characters, proved unable to cope with the original's three-column layout.) The resulting text has not been proof-read, but was imported into Microsoft Word and spell-checked. Occasional missing lines or hard-to-read letters have been supplied from an original copy of the Dictionary.

The most likely remaining errors are where a mis-recognized letter produces a different existing word, which the spell-checker would not flag as an error. For example, h and b were sometimes confused in the OCR process, so that hand was misread as band, or vice versa. Such errors should be obvious to anyone reading an entry and should not affect the intelligibility of the text. These errors have been corrected wherever identified and should certainly have been corrected in all headwords.

One other problem with the OCR process was that the software did not always recognize the hanging indent that indicated the first line of an entry. The result is that in a few cases one entry runs into the next. The start of the entries has been manually checked, and the processing for transfer to a database also revealed other errors, which have been corrected, but with over 21,000 entries, it is likely that one or two OCR errors of this type will have been missed.

Peter Christian, November 2016.